I found it distressing to watch Vera unable to swallow fluids in the her last days, particularly as a small sponge on a stick which I had used to dip in water and moisten the mouth of my father in his last hours, was no longer available. This is what I wrote:
Sir, I helped to care for my mother-in-law, who died at home from a terminal illness this month. We tried giving her fluids through a straw, a baby beaker and a teaspoon until her swallowing reflexes stopped working. We were told she could choke if we continued, and that we should let nature take its course.
I asked the district nurse for some sponges on a stick that we could dip into water to moisten her mouth. These had been available when my father died in similar circumstances five years ago. We were told they were now banned as a health and safety risk because some of the sponges came off, and no alternative suggestions were offered. An assistant at our local Boots store suggested that we tie some gauze on a cotton bud, and this was what we used to moisten her parched tongue in her last hours. I could see the immense gratitude in her eyes.
With all the technological advancements at our disposal today, could someone not create a safe sponge on a stick that could be used to add a little comfort for the dying?