“When I left the clinic, I went for a walk. The weather was fine and I was calm. Jeany was also serene when she left. »
Since the age of 28, Sophie Grassano has been a member of the association for the right to die with dignity (ADMD). Today, she is 66. Last year, she accompanied Jeany to Switzerland to help her die with dignity. Jeany was neither a sister, nor a mother, nor a friend. However, this septuagenarian chose her for the last moments of her life.
Choose your death
Sophie Grassano had already been with the association for many years when she met Jeany, also a member. The two women sympathize, especially during the gatherings organized by the organization. Two activists in great shape, determined to shake things up in the debate on active assistance in dying.
But, three years ago, Jeany announces to Sophie that she has cancer. Obviously, she evokes her desire to organize her assisted suicide in Switzerland when her condition deteriorates. But Jeany is separated from her husband and no longer has contact with her only son. Against all expectations, she decides to entrust this heavy task to someone she knows less well but who will necessarily understand her choice.
“Jeany asked me if I wanted to be her companion in due time. I had never accompanied anyone during this event but, as we had a good relationship, I accepted quite spontaneously,” recalls Sophie. “I quickly wondered what it was going to mean for me and, in reality, we must not forget that it is also an administrative support. The rest of the time, you have to be able to listen to the person, call them, ask them how they are, talk to them about us…”
“She was afraid that her spine would break and that would prevent her from moving to die in Switzerland”
Last July, Jeany learned that she had bone metastases on her spine and her condition deteriorated drastically. “It rushed the process. She was already taking treatments but the new one made her much more tired. She went through periods of great fatigue, then she got better, and so on. In her last weeks, the septuagenarian only thinks of one thing: Switzerland. “She said she was afraid that her spine would break, and that would prevent her from moving to die in Switzerland,” recalls Sophie, who follows the condition of the Clermontoise from a distance.
“You’re coming huh? Won’t you let me down? »
Jeany’s file was completed and accepted the same summer by a Swiss association specializing in requests from foreign patients. At the beginning of September, Sophie learns the news: a date of suicide is planned for Jeany… in eight days.
“I had not imagined this situation”, regrets Sophie, “I thought that I would have time to go down to Clermont-Ferrand to spend one last day with her and that we could make the trip to Switzerland together. But it was not possible. »
So Sophie books the first train to Bern. “What was kind of funny about this rushed situation is that I am 66 years old, I am in great shape, but, at that moment, I kept telling myself that I had no interest to die for, I was careful where I put my feet because Jeany kept telling me ‘you’re coming, huh? Won’t you let me down?’ and I didn’t want to be absent! »
“His only fear was that the nurse would not come”
“On the morning of September 8, Jeany was there, in a wheelchair, all smiles with her little silk scarf,” recalls Sophie. “His only fear was that the nurse wouldn’t come and things wouldn’t go as planned. »
After having reiterated her wish to die with dignity, (the interview is done alone with a health professional, note), the septuagenarian was able to say goodbye. “I had my moment with Jeany before she left and I smile thinking about it. We took each other by the hands and she needed to talk to me again about her life, her former job and her fight for the right to die with dignity. The patient was then placed in a medical bed and the infusion set. “I would have liked to be with her until the end but she had chosen to be alone with the doctor. She didn’t want me to be there when she activated the dial and the product flowed through her veins. It was his choice and he asked for a lot of humanity. »
A long fight
If Sophie Grassano decided to join ADMD in 1984, it was not by chance. At 20, she witnessed the death of her uncle, who died in pain from cancer. Several years later, his little cousin is dying in his arms, also suffering from cancer. But “Jeany and my little cousin, these are two separate cases”, she expresses. “For Jeany, appeasement was coming, she was relieved. I was happy then and still am when I think of her. My cousin, she died in France by sedation (last solution offered to the patient a few hours before his death, editor’s note), that means that we stop all the treatments, the food but also the hydration of the patient. “An episode of which she still speaks with great emotion. “Do you know what noise it makes when someone is dying? She is suffocating, she has rales because she no longer has respiratory aid and she is curled up. »
For 15 years, Sophie has considered herself an activist. Thus, from a simple member of the ADMD, she became a delegate for the 19th, 20th, then the 18th arrondissement of Paris and regularly conducts listening sessions to better inform new members. For her part, she has already thought about the question. “We anticipate and we can prepare the administrative side, but that does not mean that we will necessarily die by assisted suicide or euthanasia,” she explains. “We are like everyone else. Personally, I really hope that I could die in my bed, closing my eyes in front of the TV, and at the same time as my husband! »
Today, Sophie, like thousands of other French people, continues to fight her battle for the right to die with dignity. “It seems legitimate to me that a patient can choose the conditions of his end of life”, justifies the activist. If Jeany was the first person she accompanied to Switzerland, she says it will probably be the last, “unless it happens to a loved one”. A strong moment in emotion but which she considers to have no psychological consequences: “I retain from Jeany her humor, her jokes at each meal, always with her little glass of champagne. »