29 November 2006

Greek News - Nora Nicolaidis Suffering Ended

Community: Nora Nicolaidis Suffering Ended

Posted on Monday, February 13 @ 13:54:29 EST by greek_news

New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

Nora Nicolaidis' only wish - when doctors diagnosed she had terminal cancer - was to die with dignity. Two months ago, when we interviewed her in Portland, Oregon, she had told us of her desire to depart from life surrounded by family and friends, having "a good death", as it was described by the ancient Greek word "euthanasia".

Her last wish was granted. On Saturday January 14, 2006, suffering from breast cancer that had spread to her bones and liver, Nora Nicolaidis, a 62 year old Greek American, born in Egypt, drank a lethal 6-ounce dose of barbiturates and "went to sleep and died peacefully" says Nicholas Gideonse, the Portland, Ore., physician who prescribed the drugs.

Speaking to the GreekNews, her daughter Dr. Christina Nicolaidis described her mother's lastdays. "Since you last saw her, she progressively grew much sicker. Still, she managed to muster her energy to keep going. By the last month of her life, she would meditate or sleep almost the whole day just so that she could have a few hours of quality time to get up and interact with the world.

Finally, by Jan 10th, she was too week to get up by herself. Over those next days, you could see her deteriorate by the hour. Still, she managed to stay completely alert and in control. Though it was clearly extremely painful and exhausting for her, she insisted that we help her up to the commode and never let herself use a bedpan or diaper".

Dr. Nicolaidis told us that to her surprise, her mother wanted to keep going, and she continued to fight. At the same time, as time was passing by, she and her doctor were both rather afraid that if her mother waited any longer, she would physically not be able to drink the 6 ounces of fluid needed to end her life.

"Finally, on Saturday morning, she told me she couldn't take another night and that she wanted to arrange to take her medicine that day. That evening, her sister, her doctor, two close friends, my husband and I gathered around her bed. She whispered a few parting words, and then using every bit of energy she had, sipped down the medicine. Within moments, as the medicine started to kick in, she got a huge smile on her face. Her breaths slowly spaced apart and then she stopped breathing, though the smile never left her face".

Dr. Nicolaidis believes that having the option to end her life actually prolonged her life. "It took every last bit of her energy and will to keep going those last months, and I think if she was afraid of what was to come, or if she just didn't want to stay alive so much, she would have just given up and died naturally. Thankfully, she ended up having the "good death" she so much desired. Of course she (and I) would have wanted it to be a few decades from now, but that wasn't meant to be".

Oregon is the only state allowing doctor assisted suicide to people suffering from terminal diseases. An effort by the Federal Government to prohibit doctors to prescribe the lethal medication and assist the patients, was blocked by the Supreme Court, last month.


Dying people who want to hasten their death with a doctor's assistance in Oregon must follow procedures established by the state's Department of Human Services.

The state says these procedures take at least 15 days, require two doctors, and are available only to adult state residents capable of making and communicating their own health care decisions. No doctor is required to participate or to refer a patient to a physician willing to assist.

The patient makes three requests, two oral and one written and witnessed by two adults who are not a family member, heir or health care provider.

The physician explains the patient's diagnosis and prognosis and offers hospice care, pain control and other comfort care.

A second physician confirms the diagnosis and prognosis and that the request is voluntary, enduring and not prompted by impaired judgment.

If either physician suspects psychological impairment, the patient is referred for evaluation and counseling by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

There is a mandatory 15-day waiting period between the first request and the writing of a prescription.

There must be 48 hours between the written request and the prescription. The prescribing doctor reviews that the request is voluntary, and reviews options such as "aggressive pain management, sedation that clouds your mind or to voluntarily cease eating and drinking," family medicine specialist Nicholas Gideonse,. who has written prescription for eight people, seven
of whom have taken the medication, told USA TODAY.

The physician must ask the patient to notify next-of-kin, and must reinforce that the request may be rescinded at any time.

Both physicians and the pharmacist who fills the prescription must submit detailed reports to the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The prescription is a lethal overdose of barbiturates either in dozens of capsules or six ounces of liquid. The patient must be able to swallow the overdose without assistance from others, "to show the volitional nature of this," says Gideonse.

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