by Tory Butterworth
On a previous job, my co-worker and I were trained in a protocol for asking patients about their end-of-life wishes. During the training, she role-played asking me questions about the circumstances where I would like to continue life support and where I would choose to end it.
"And if you could not eat, but had to be fed by a tube, would you want to live?"
"No," I replied emphatically, not having thought of this question before.
What did I imagine? All the pleasure I currently get from food stripped away. Instead, a harsh tube irritating my throat, my only tastes of food from occasional burps into my esophagus.
No, I would not want to live that way.
My co-worker questioned my decision, pointing out to me all the other pleasures in life I could experience without being able to eat: reading, talking to family and friends, stroking my cats. Our instructor stopped her, suggesting that she had my answer, it was not her job to try to talk me out of my wishes.
I looked at my co-worker, the same age as me, who maintains a healthy weight for her height and bone structure. For the first time, I got a glimpse into the world of a non-compulsive eater.
I can't imagine a life without eating, that pleasure sublimated into other things. Though it wouldn't be my choice, I can imagine a life where I am unable to walk, or unable to see or hear. But unable to eat? It feels to me like the whole meaning on which I base my life would be stripped away.
Yet I know people who are relatively indifferent to food, who eat because they get light-headed if they don't, who go out to eat to be with friends rather than experience new tastes and textures.
Around this issue, my empathy fails. I just can't imagine being like that.
At the end of many diet books is this adage: Do you live to eat, or eat to live? I'm afraid I still live to eat.
How about you? Can you imagine a life without food?