I’ve taken the words of a five tweet thread from Alistair McAlpine’s twitter feed, because I want to share them here.
It was written as a response to a tweet referring to terminally ill, and now deceased, Alfie Evans as “a warrior”.
Alistair is a local paediatric palliative care physician.
Here’s what he had to say:
We need to discuss this idea that everyone has to ‘fight’ diseases, and be a ‘warrior’.
The truth is, Alfie’s disease didn’t care whether he ‘fought’ or not. It was terminal.
Similarly, if, for whatever reason, someone decides not to ‘fight’ and doesn’t want to soldier on in a meaningless struggle against a disease, that’s a legitimate call.
It doesn’t make them ‘cowardly’ or ‘weak’. It’s just a choice.
The final days/hours/years of someone’s life don’t have to be a perpetual ‘war’. If folk want to die peacefully and quietly, that doesn’t make them any less brave.
One of the tricks to dying is knowing when it’s time to let go. And that moment comes at different stages for different people. No one can make that call for anyone else.
So let’s celebrate Alfie’s life without resorting to language that is more appropriate for a battlefield than a hospital.
We’ll never know how hard Alfie fought, and it doesn’t matter.
His life isn’t defined by his final hours.
Terminal illness is a difficult and uncomfortable subject for most of us, but it’s something that Alistair has to deal with on a daily basis.
And, should you ever be in the unfortunate situation of having to deal with it too, then it might be worth remembering Alistair’s words above.