Welcome to Mexico !

By Victoria Schmidt

Dying in Mexico


She arrived on August 19, 2010 after years of dreaming of living in Mexico. She died on October 5, 2010 just four days shy of her 63rd birthday. Barb was one of my dearest friends.

Soon after arriving from Canada, she went to a Mexican doctor who within a few weeks diagnosed a medical problem her doctors in Canada had missed. She had been diagnosed previously with COPD-stage 4 and had moved down to Chapala with the hopes that the climate and altitude would ease her breathing problems. It did. She was much more active in Mexico. But then we received the devastating diagnosis that she only had a few weeks to live. The specialist in Guadalajara told her she was “a year too late.” Her condition was inoperable.

Barb showed me her living will, and told me about her wishes. But I had also heard that in Mexico, her English language living will, or advanced directive would not be honored. Together we discovered that there were important documents that needed to be prepared in order to have her wishes honored here in Mexico. She needed to have her wishes stated in Spanish. In order to avoid an autopsy, she needed to be under the care of a doctor, and the doctor’s name had to be included in the paperwork. In that same document, she needed to have her wishes to be cremated stated, and it needed to state who would receive the remains.

It also contained her name, address, martial status, and her passport number. This needed to be signed in the presence of a Notario, and then certified by the Notario. The second document was the statement of how she wanted to be treated medically in the event she was unable to make her own medical decisions. Again, this had to be in Spanish, and the name and address of the person who would make those decisions had to be included. This, too, had to be signed and certified by the Notario.

The doctor, who cared for her, renewed her faith in the Medical profession. He was kind, caring and compassionate. He treated her with respect and dignity. While she was dying at her home, he gave her ‘round the clock care. He kept me, and her family updated on everything that was going on. Her family was shocked that a doctor would come to the house, let alone, come every six-to-eight hours.

After she passed away, my husband and I sat with her. I left only to attend to the funeral home where I signed the orders for her cremation.

Meanwhile, as always in Mexico, the news of her death traveled quickly. The Mexican family that had helped her with her laundry and other errands, but who also came in and checked on her when I could not, all stopped by to give their condolences before the funeraria had even collected her body. When the funeraria came to collect her, they treated her with such tenderness and respect that it brought tears to my eyes. When I picked up her cremated remains, I had to show my identification and have it copied for the Mexican government, and then I received copies of her death certificate. Again, the people who helped me through this process were kind, respectful, and recognized my loss.

My advice to any ex-pat living in Mexico is this: even if you have no property, and have a will from your country of origin, and have advanced directives about your health care, please take the next step and make sure you have the proper documents for Mexico. It will make things much easier for those you leave behind.

Throughout this entire process, I was buoyed by the love and the support of my many friends, but also by the love and respect I felt from the many Mexican people who barely knew Barb, but took her in as one of their own.

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