Merigar Library Talks – “To Bring Days to Life”

An important event in the Merigar West ‘Library Talks‘ series

We often talk about impermanence, referring above all to the many things and relationships that pass through our lives, but we tend to suppress the idea that life itself is impermanent. Sometimes, the mourning of a loved one, a serious illness or even just discovering, looking in the mirror, that much of the time available to us has already passed, reminds us of it.

“To Bring Days to Life” was the title of an intense, important meeting held in the Merigar Library by Dr. Anna Paola Pecci, and the days whose value she led us to reflect on are the ones that will end our lives. Let us not forget that the teachings on the Bardo also tell us that the mental state at the time of the transition is one of the most important factors capable of influencing the subsequent phases.

Dr. Pecci is the Head of the Palliative Care Functional Unit of the USL Tuscany southeast in the Grosseto area. She has been to Merigar on other occasions, speaking together with Father Guidalberto Bormolini in the seminars held on the problems of the end of life and it was she who assisted our Master in the last days of his earthly existence.

We must all be aware that if the event that will lead to our death is a serious illness, our existence will be strongly conditioned by it and, in the current reality, we will almost certainly be involved in a medicalization system, precious in some respects, but potentially dramatic for others.

Palliative care, often considered as a minor medical specialty, has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “…an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families who are faced with problems associated with incurable illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering through early identification and optimal treatment of pain and other problems of a physical, psychological, social and spiritual nature.” Anyone who has had the experience of following a patient in the last stages of his life can perfectly understand the importance of this. Everyone can and must ask himself if, having reached the end of his life, he prefers to prolong the suffering of this phase by remaining hooked up to a machine with half a dozen tubes entering and leaving his body or to be accompanied to a dignified end with respect for his emotional and spiritual, needs in his home, with a sedation of pain and the possibility of consciously separating from loved ones.

It is not foolish to ask the question “whose life is it?” What happens when a disease deprives us of our autonomy, when the body begins to give way and we become addicted to treatments and healers? Unfortunately, medicine has increasingly focused on fighting disease rather than on the complex needs of the sick person. If then the disease is terminal and there is no longer any prospect of recovery, it may happen that the doctor forgets that his first task is not to snatch a few days in the duel with death but above all to alleviate the patient’s suffering. Therapeutic obstinacy is one of the risks we are exposed to if we do not become aware of our rights and possible alternatives.

In this regard, the importance of drafting the Advance Treatment Provisions (DAT) envisaged by law no. 219/17 of the Italian Republic, which offers us the possibility of choosing how to die and underlines the right to detailed information on every possible medical intervention on our person, provisions that all doctors or family members will be obliged to comply with and respect. This is even more important for those who have followed a spiritual practice that teaches how to face the moment when consciousness will have to leave the body. Spirituality, a peculiar component of the human condition, becomes particularly precious in this last phase of life.

Anna Paola Pecci dealt with these very delicate issues with great clarity and lightness so as to make understandable and acceptable things which our mind often tends to reject. As confirmation of the interest with which the meeting was followed by the numerous participants, there were many questions and a heartfelt invitation to return to go into more depth about these topics. In particular, information was requested about how to formulate one’s DAT correctly so that they are accurate and become binding for everyone, and this will be the topic of a future meeting.

Gino Vitiello

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