On the Concept of Dying with Dignity
By The Most Rev. William F. Heagen, Bishop of Lakewood
Spiritual Care Coordinator, Angelic Health
Dying with dignity. We hear this phrase used so many times but often we fail to look beyond what we can see. We think of hospital beds, of wires and tubes, and care for a physical body that can no longer care for itself. We are concerned about housing, of clothing, of privacy, of eating, of matters of personal hygiene. All of them matter; they are all an important part of comfort and care. But we have only dealt with the physical- what we touch, what we see. And there is far more to a person than that.
Inside this shell, what we call a body, is the essence of what makes us human, different from any other living creature: our minds and our souls. Recognizing and addressing the continuing needs of a person's mind and soul is what dying with dignity is all about.
It is feeding the soul and stimulating the mind. It is engaging the person as a person, not as a patient. It is giving a lifetime of experience a platform to express itself and affirming their need to reveal their thoughts, feelings and beliefs as to what will happen next without burdening their families. It is valuing the person and validating their personhood.
Dying with dignity is giving voice to a person's meaning and purpose of life and recognizing that each and every person still has something to offer until their last breath; and that there is someone who is willing and anxious to receive it. It is helping the dying person to see the many lives that they have impacted throughout their lifetime, and to give them the opportunity to touch one more.
Angelic Health provides spiritual support to hospice patients and their families. This support continues for loved-ones for more than a year after the patient’s death.