What is the difference between Support and Assistance?
Do you know if you will meet resistance?
Who is on your side and on your behalf can speak?
Are you prepared if you end ‘up the creek’?
Assistance is great, if you need it for sure.
But without Support your prognosis is poor.
In birthing and dying in particular, the difference really matters. Assistance without Support can feel undignified, disrespectful and impersonal. And not just for the person birthing or dying, for their loved ones too. Loved ones trying to offer support need to be supported to do this effectively. They need information, they need space to digest it, they need emotional support and practical support.
In dying, it is similar. Assisted Dying involved medical interventions, just as assisted birth does. Not all experiences will require assistance. If assistance is required, it is very possible to be both assisted and supported. It is terrible to be just assisted.
In Dying, it is recommended that you take time to write an Advanced Care Directive and communicate your decisions to your loved ones (particularly your enduring power of attorney). Without this document, you will receive the default care, which is to sustain your life regardless of the quality or the natural process.
In Birthing, the process to ensure support is called Informed Birth Preparation, or ‘Birth Cartography’. This involves creating a Birth Map, which is similar to an Advance Care Directive. You use the Birth Map to communicate your Informed Decision for various scenarios to your support team and your medical carers. Without this preparation, you will receive the default care, which is an outcome involving a live mother and baby, regardless of quality of life, including mental health.
This is not where the baseline should be. Support and autonomous care should be the minimum, and most people assume it is. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Doulas, for birth and death, help bridge the information gap and provide emotional and practical support. Navigating the medical system can be overwhelming and dehumanising without support, leaving you feeling processed and uncertain. Without Questions, there can be no answers. We need to know not just the questions, but how to ask them. And Never Assume Anything! Understand ‘consent’, and why it is not the best approach.