The taboo of death and the fear of euthanasia prevent progress on the right to die

The recently ended 2020 brought us a multitude of news, most of it bad, but also some good. Others, however, depend on the perception of who evaluates them. This is the case of the approval of the euthanasia law in Spain. The news was a joy to those who believe that the right to life should never minimize the right to death. At the other extreme, it was a jug of cold water for those who refuse that someone can die before their time really comes. The opinions are respectable, of course, but a question is worth asking in this regard. Would the latter think the same if we did not live with him taboo of death in our society?

Contrary to what happens in other cultures, in the West it is a topic that is avoided, that is not usually discussed unless there is no other option. And that poses a lot of problems. Not only in order to normalize situations such as euthanasia. Also because sometimes it makes us live in a situation of permanent anxiety for what might come. This is why breaking down these taboos is so important. Assuming that dying is something natural and that one day the time will come for all of us, even if we don’t like it, can help us enjoy life more. And, above all, not to suffer because others decide that the time has come to end the torment that theirs had become.

Why is breaking the taboo on death so important?

Noelia Fernández Urbano She is a family doctor, an expert in palliative care and emergencies and emergencies. She is one of the founders of Cuipal, a company based in Almería dedicated to palliative care at home. From his work, he has seen how the fear generated by the taboo of death can even lead some people to receive the last moments of their lives with more suffering.

Many people reject palliative care because receiving it would mean assuming death is near

“Many people they show resistance to being cared for”, He explains to in a telephone interview. “It is not fear or rejection of us, but fear of death, because if we attend to them it means that they approach it.”

This is an issue that should be worked on with both family members and patients. Therefore, in all these cases the intervention of a psychologist. “Neither social security nor the public service have psycho-oncologists, but there are in NGOs, such as the Spanish Association Against Cancer or the La Caixa Foundation,” explains this expert in palliative care. “From the company we cannot work directly with them either, but we refer them and it seems to us a fundamental mission. The excellence would be for the team to always have a piscooncologist, as they are prepared to accompany patients ”. It should be noted that the term psycho-oncologist refers to those who accompany cancer patients in the last stage of their life.

However, there are also other psychologists specialized in accompanying other types of patients. “Usually the AECC, being specific to cancer care, treat these patients, but the La Caixa Foundation also treats non-cancer patients.” However, Noelia clarifies that with the latter it is sometimes more complicated for them to access these services, since it is not always so clear when they should enter palliative care.

sad girl

Involve children

The psychologists they can help patients approaching death get down those last steps on the road. They can also help people who spend their entire lives dreading the end, even without being sick. But, maybe, if they had talked more about the subject When they were small all these people, one and the other, would not require psychological help.

Sometimes we avoid telling children about the death of a relative because we would not know how to react to their sadness

And it is that the taboo of death begins precisely at that stage. For example, it is very tangible when a family member dies and is hidden from children. “I always say that these behaviors are born from love,” says the doctor consulted in this way. “The family does not want to harm them, it wants to protect them, thinking that if death is reported, the children will suffer.” And possibly they do; since, as Noelia continues, sadness is an inevitable feeling. Must learn to accompany that feeling, don’t try to avoid it at all costs. “In our society it bothers us that people are sad, because we have no resources,” he says. “We don’t know what to do if the children start to cry and that’s why we don’t tell them. It is rather a lack of resources for adults to know how to accompany ”.

That is why it is important to work with these resources with adults, but also with the concept standardization of death with children.

It is for this reason that Dr. Fernández considers that it is an issue that even should be treated in schools. “When they study the life cycle they should be told that it is part of it ”. In addition, there are stories and other types of specific material to work with the death of a relative. “I believe that children are more pragmatic and simple at the time of integrating natural things ”, he argues. “We give more emotional charge, but they are more of the here and now.”


Normalize death to connect with life

Both Noelia and Almudena, her partner in Cuipal, have learned to relativize what happens at work. “If we were saddened, we couldn’t have this job,” he explains. “It helps me connect with the present, because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Death is the only certainty of life, because we all know that we are going to die, but we don’t know when ”.

Without many dramas, assuming the future death helps to live in the present

So if we all managed to break down that taboo of death, perhaps we would enjoy life more. “Without being too dramatic, keeping that single certainty in mind helps us to enjoy more of the moments”.

Accepting that does not mean surrendering to death. Neither recognize the right to die of a person is a contempt for life. People who have been able to break this taboo of death have not done so because they want to die. “I don’t want to die, it doesn’t suit me,” says Noelia with a touch of humor.

But not wanting to die does not have to conflict with assuming that it is an inevitable procedure. And much less with understanding that it is the only wish of those people whose life has already become something much more feared than death itself.

The article The taboo of death and the fear of euthanasia prevent progress in the right to die was published in