After a friend died a few months ago without a will—and I learned that two thirds of U.S. Americans die without one—I updated mine and my health care directive for the first time in twenty years.
What’s changed in twenty years? More than ever, computers dictate our birthing, food production, education and health care. Our society dreams impossibly that we can continue to manufacture electronics and vehicles without consequences. Personally, I no longer own property; and I no longer consider my archives from 45 years of publishing “assets.” But that’s another story.
Mainly, I still aim to live in concert with nature, and to live and die within my ecological and financial means.
Birth in the techno-sphere
My mother gave birth to me in 1960, in a fluorescent-lit New York City hospital with an epidural that kept her unconscious for my arrival. While she recovered, nurses gave me a rubber-tipped bottle filled with soymilk I could not digest.
For a U.S. American born in the first generation after World War II, my birth was nothing special. For any mammal, separating the mother and baby during the infant’s first hours practically guarantees that the mother will reject her offspring. My mother and I adored each other. But before I turned twenty, we had a rift that we could not repair. From the time of our schism—in an electrified society that values profit—I dedicated myself to healing my relationship with my mother, and in a wider way, this has meant revering nature. My health care directive comes out of this dedication.
My health care directive
I consider death an ordinary, natural part of every life. In the event that I become unconscious or otherwise extremely ill and unable to make decisions for myself, I want to be among people who honor the body’s processes, including death. I do not want my life or dying manipulated by technology. I do not want any attempts made to extend my life by technical or pharmaceutical means.
Do not call 911. Do not resuscitate me.
I do not want a blood transfusion. I do not want a ventilator. I do not want data collected about my vital signs. I do not want any pharmaceuticals, including aspirin, antibiotics, blood thinners, sedatives or anti-depressants. I do not want pain medication that renders me unconscious.
I do not want artificial nutrition or hydration. I do not want mass-produced, genetically modified, microwaved or processed food. I do not want a milkshake. (I was born celiac and am still allergic to wheat, spelt, soy and dairy. I do not eat bread, crackers, chips, flour of any kind, sugar, honey, caffeine, cheese or food grown with pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones or washed in antibiotics. I do not eat farm-raised fish or factory-farmed eggs, poultry or meat.)
I do not want to be in a hospital or a nursing home.
I do not want a television in my vicinity. I do not want mobile phones, laptops, tablets, iWatches or desktop computers or Wi-Fi in my vicinity. I do not want to be exposed to fluorescent lights.
If I experience physical pain while dying, I’m open to acupuncture, aromatherapy, homeopathy and investigating my thinking with the questions of Byron Katie. Give me paper and pastels. I do not want a morphine drip. I want to die consciously.
If I become unconscious or extremely ill, please respect that I absolutely prefer death to being hospitalized.
May my caregivers recognize that these directives are essential to my health, which is based on respect for nature. I prefer NO treatment to a provider who does not understand this.
I will not hold anyone liable if/when they present a medical option that I do not follow, even if my health deteriorates as a result.
I do not want my living or dying to support the medical industry and/or medical technologies. I do not want to receive treatment that I cannot afford. First and foremost, my health insurance is with nature.
I consider my birth a blessing. When it comes, may my death mark the completion of a living cycle that aimed to discover its place in nature. Thank you for honoring my wishes.
I’d like the most ecological burial possible—within my means. Cremation is energy intensive, greenhouse gas emitting and toxic. Human composting sounds good—but transporting my corpse to the nearest composter makes it ecologically and financially unsound.
A coffin made from wood chips and mushrooms can turn a corpse into compost in less than three years. Normally, it takes twelve.
Ideally, someone near me would build this casket. Shipping one from Europe—where they are currently made—would use energy and cost more than I can afford.
I’m open to a biodegradable tree pod burial. Beside purchasing the coffin or the pod, my survivors would need land. If a plot is not affordable, I opt for burial in the pauper’s grave.
In other words, I’ve still got work to do—to find an ecologically and economically sound way to die.