Madelaine Shaw-Wong


Sample from Quietus:

Winter 2020

Chapter One

Akim Free Clinic

Dr. Piter Dram stepped off the bus, clenched his collar and braced against the gusts that penetrated his thin coat. The frigid wind made his eyes water and he blinked away the ice crystals that formed on his lashes. The distance from the bus stop to the clinic was only two blocks, but at negative twenty degrees Celsius, the walk seemed longer.

Covonan winters were months of brutal winds and biting cold. Sub-zero temperatures could freeze exposed skin in minutes. Dense Arctic air left a thick glaze of ice on the sidewalk, causing Piter to slip. He reached his hand to the wall of a building to steady himself.

     Piter Dram avoided eye contact with the growing line of people who waited outside the Akim Free Clinic. Wrapped in coats and blankets, the unwell huddled on the sidewalk or leaned against the wall of the decaying three story, sandstone brick building. Here we go. Another day of misery and complaints, he thought.

     This was not his dream assignment. His wife, Yun, said it was the same for teachers and they should be grateful to have jobs in this economy. Covona hadn’t yet recovered from the war and many were still destitute and hopeless. Yun was the “cup-half-full” kind of person. Piter, however, couldn’t help but feel jaded. Each day, we’re expected us to do more with less.

     A few stark trees with blackened bark, survivors of the recent war, stood in sidewalk depressions. Above Piter’s head, balconies protruded from the sides of the buildings with lines of laundry strung between them. Frozen shirts, trousers and underwear hung unbending in the winter wind. Vehicles puffing blue smoke dodged potholes in the street.

     He squeezed past a woman blocking the doorway of the free clinic and stepped inside. The smell of unwashed bodies filled his nostrils. Patients sprawled on plastic chairs or sat on the floor of the waiting room. An old man coughed, phlegmy and wet. Red-cheeked children whimpered in their mothers’ arms. An infant coughed in staccato rhythm followed by a gasping inhale. Piter turned to look at her. Pertussis, he thought. Free vaccines for the poor was another recent government cutback. Here’s the result.

     A man lay prostrate on the floor. Piter put his fingers on the young man’s neck to feel for a pulse. The man opened his eyes halfway and wheezed. Piter wished he could call an ambulance and send this man and the baby with whooping cough to emergency, but none of the patients this room could afford the cost of a hospital visit.

My thoughts on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide:
Many people are happy that Canada has struck down the law against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. I'm afraid that the long-range effects will be disastrous to our country.
New laws will be enacted. Perhaps the laws will propose that only those of sound mind, suffering from a condition that causes intolerable suffering will qualify. They propose that any doctor who does not want to end a life won't be forced; until those laws are challenged. The laws will become laxer and we will descend down the slippery slope.
This pattern has been repeated in other countries where euthanasia is legal. People are driven to seek euthanasia by fear; fear of suffering a bad death, of being a burden, and the loss of autonomy. Rather than offering death, We should offer to relieve their fears.
Modern medicine has advanced to the stage where most pain can be controlled. Let's offer good palliative care that protects the dignity of the person. Let's assure the dying that they won't be a burden. A person's worth is not tied to what they contribute, but simply because they are. This is called intrinsic worth. We must accept others for who they are.
The time of dying is the time to mend broken relationships, to come to terms with life's regrets. It is a time to show comfort and compassion by being there, sharing in the final journey.
To truly die with dignity is to allow nature to take its course. We don't preserve life at all costs, but neither do we run towards death.
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