Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Let me die! - When should families let go?

When a loved one is so ill that they voice the unthinkable, "Let me die", it can be traumatic to the family. Too often than not, what happens is that the family guilts the sick into "doing everything, every time".  So not only does the sick family member have to live with the pain that made them make the declaration, but now they have to live with all "the life-saving" measures thrust upon them. They will be destined to many extra needles, the side effects of the $50k per pill magic medications that may give them another 6 months of agony and the humiliation of the family watching them waste away to nothing. Then in the end, because the discussion of end of life is taboo, they will suffer the last insult of ending up in the ER where we will be required to put the body through the last heroic attempts of drugs, shocks and compressions. We, fighting to give them more suffering and they, fighting for rest. In those times- I hope they beat me.

Recently, I had a case like that. JS (not the real name) was so ill that she would end up in the ER every week or so. We and she would do what the family wanted. She would get patched up. Sometimes she would be admitted but most times she would refuse. This kept going on for over 6 months. There would actually be yelling fights in the ER between her and the family. I respected that at least she had the spirit to fight them. Finally, when she became sick again, she didn't tell the family and delayed coming in so long that her heart stopped while the family was driving her to the ER. The ambulance was called, she didn't have a living will (DNR) so the final assault was begun. We knew it was JS when the ambulance called. We continued the resuscitation briefly but all along I was rooting for her. I placed the Ultrasound on her chest. The heart was still. She won- finally. Now you can rest in peace........

Please give your loved ones the final act of respect and mercy when they ask you to let them go........

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