A time to die


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; . . .

The author of Ecclesiastes was right.

There is a time to die.

There is also a time to let those we love die and I am saddened by the report which says Nelson Mandela’s former wife, Winnie, and their daughter, Zindzi, say they’ll never agree to just let him go, as he struggles for life.

There is a time when letting go is humane and an act of love, when refusal to do so is an act of selfishness.

I have on two occasions had to make the decision to let a child go.

The first time Tom was only 20 weeks old.

We’d been told a month earlier that he had a degenerative brain disorder and was unlikely to live long.

He’d stopped breathing, been resuscitated but was in a critical state.

His doctor asked me what I wanted the medical team to do.

I said if he was able to help himself they should do all they could but if it was a matter of prolonging the inevitable they should let him go.

The doctor said they’d done all they could, handed Tom to me and he stopped breathing a few minutes later.

Seven years later I faced a similar decision.

Our second son Dan had the same brain disorder that had killed his brother. He was in hospital for an operation and got an infection which he wasn’t able to fight.

When he stopped breathing the doctor asked the nurse to summon the crash team but I said no. Dan’s paediatrician had said if ever something like this happened it would be best to let him be.

The doctor asked if I was sure, I said yes and he respected that decision.

This isn’t quite the same as the imminent death of an elderly man but the principle is.

There is a time when it is right to fight for life and a time when it isn’t.

There is a time to die and a time to let those we love die.

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