December 2001 – February 2002
Silvia Fiscalini felt there was something terribly wrong with the way death was approached: people avoided dealing with it at all costs. That was 23 years ago, when she was a nursing student in Switzerland. Determined to find a better way, she gravitated to hospice work in the US, was eventually able to see both her parents through peaceful deaths, and founded a residential hospice in Bern. Today she is back working in Zürich as a hospice nurse.
When I was a nursing student, patients were not informed about the imminence of death nor
did anyone talk with them and their families. So people were very scared and insecure.
Nurses’ and doctors’ visits to the rooms of dying people were very short and impersonal. I felt strongly that this was wrong but when I asked questions I was told that I was simply too young to understand – and too sensitive – and with the years I would become more professional and less involved personally: as if this was a goal to achieve!
It seemed to me, though, that the whole story with death was fundamentally dealt with in a wrong way. Immediately after “expiration” (the term used when someone died, just like a credit card,) the body, often still warm, was wheeled secretly to the basement into a cooling drawer, a note attached to the toe with name and date of expiration. It was a very cold and impersonal affair.
Usually people died alone because their relatives were not called soon enough and were also too scared to stay with them. I was very disappointed in my profession and questioned Western medicine and how people were cared for. I was looking for other ways of working with people….death and dying, hospice, socially engaged buddhism