Shameful deception destroyed mothers’ right to tell their children the truth
FOR all we know, any one of us might have terminal cancer. Any one of us could get a letter informing us today that the results of the test we had last year were mistaken and, in fact, there is a cancer growing within.
We don’t endure these horrible tests for any other reason than we want to know the truth about any forthcoming illness, but the people who are involved in this toxic story of secrecy and concealment selfishly took the decision to dismiss our right to know the truth about our bodies.
Seventeen women involved in this smear test scandal have already died and half of the 206 women involved don’t even know of their involvement yet. Presumably they will hear about their incorrect results soon; but can we rely on anything any more? Can we really hope to believe that we have the full details of this story?
We know, courtesy of Vicky Phelan’s brave and courageous determination, that there has been a series of cover-ups, obfuscations and concealments in this particular scandal but what do we know of the other more successful concealments?
We need to know about our health so we can prepare ourselves and our loved ones for the news.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a shocking experience and when a person is faced with their mortality, a deep vulnerability rises within.
Some of us will do almost anything to avoid the news and some people with a terminal diagnosis may pretend to themselves they’re getting better even when they’re evidently getting worse.
The harrowing legal fight of Alfie Evans’ parents for the right to continue to receive treatment for their terminally ill baby shows how some of us can become almost maddened in our determination to avoid death. But death comes to us all and it is a generous act of human decency to turn towards the truth so that you and your loved ones can forge meaning from what remains of your lives together.
The general consensus is that it is better to choose a quiet place to sit down with each child to tell them the news of a serious illness.
If it is cancer then it is recommended you use the word cancer – euphemisms can often cause unnecessary hurt and confusion.
It is important to give the child time to ask any questions and let them know that more questions might come to them in the future so they can ask them at any time. It can be very helpful for the child to be reassured that it’s not the child’s fault, that you aren’t in pain and – unless you have been expressly told otherwise – that there is always hope.
Telling your child about a terminal diagnosis is a more ravaging and serious conversation. The parent might start by asking the child how they think things are going.
From this the parent can outline how the treatment they have received isn’t working as well as they thought. Sentences such as the following could be used: “If the illness continues to grow as it is at the moment then it will prevent my body from working properly. When my body stops working then I will die.”
This will be an unutterably sad conversation but children sense things anyway and many imagine the worst before the worst is in danger of happening.
If the parent can be clear about the procedure, it is much more helpful.
Although it might be tempting to use phrases such as “going to sleep” or “passing away” it can often cause bewilderment and so clarity is more important.
This is often one of the most important conversations in the child’s life and so it is better if the conversation is truthful and, if possible, ends up with a chat about how love survives within us all.
Sadly, many children won’t fully take in what the parent tells them and so the conversation may have to be repeated many times.
Other children may respond in what seems to be an extraordinarily selfish way and demand to know who will take care of them. The reason for this is that with matters of life and death, primal instincts can take over and the loss of a parent can unleash a tremendous fear within the child that they won’t be able to survive this.
A terminal diagnosis is agonising for everyone but it is essential the truth is honoured. Without the truth then what’s left of our lives can become false and meaningless.
WE need the truth so we can one day come to make sense of our lives and begin the process of saying goodbye; some of us only truly connect with our loved ones during those last special days.
When we try to make sense of life and death there really isn’t much to work with but beauty, truth and love can console even the sickest of individuals.
Neither beauty nor love can properly emerge without the truth.
We need to hold on to truth because it is one of the highest concepts on this earth and this is why it is impossible to quantify the damage the concealment of these smear test results have done to people’s lives.
These people who decided to conceal the truth from Vicky Phelan and the other 205 women involved in this tragedy condemned the families to live in a false world exactly at the moment when the truth mattered most. May they hang their heads in shame.
When we try to make sense of life and death there isn’t much to work with but beauty, truth and love can console even the sickest person