Written by Magali Croix, CNN France
What do you do if you are terminally ill and no longer in charge of your health but have recently been hospitalized? Are you euthanized under Swiss law, or do you choose to die on your own terms?
That is the conundrum that faces Terminal Patients Worldwide , a new charity that was founded by Annette Wolf-Spitz, a Swiss psychiatrist and researcher who had had to tackle the dilemma when she fell ill.
Stranded in the halls of Bern’s Medizinische Kunsthaus hospital, Wolf-Spitz desperately wished to end her life when she was faced with her degenerative MS, but said “my medicine lacked the means to enable me to die peacefully.”
In 1992, Swiss President Rudolf Hundstorfer signed legislation on euthanasia. After her diagnosis, Wolf-Spitz said she became a supporter of the legislation, in view of the traditional Swiss laws on medical ethics.
Wolf-Spitz believes that for many people like her, being disempowered and sick is not necessarily a death sentence, and while there is no cure for her condition, “she does not want to live without dignity.”
Trapped between two law sets
Now living in New York, Wolf-Spitz has founded Terminal Patients Worldwide to find a solution to the lack of availability for euthanasia, but to also provide other important care for patients — choosing their final meal for example — “in the same way that physicians might deliver a cure and then withdraw it”, she says.
“It is not my intention to ‘replace’ doctors, but to learn to think along the lines of medicine without death. I am truly moving from euthanasia to making death possible, or at least more possible, within the framework of human spirit.”
Wolf-Spitz says there is still a gap between those pushing for euthanasia and those who want to allow death to be allowed without it.
“I have no doubt that I have uncovered an enormous sector of interest for an agenda to improve the lives of all people living with existential problems that are handled by both terminally ill people and dying people,” she says.
“The problem was always that there was no connection between the two. I wanted to reconnect both of them — and the high-quality care that my organisation will provide.”