Recent events raise important issues for you to consider.

 January 2014

In December 2013  there have been several events which you might want to reflect on in terms of what you would want for yourself.  Once you have become clear, have a conversation with your Medical Proxy and with your loved ones talking about what you would do in these situations.

1.      Nelson Mandela died in early December of 2013.  He was 95 and had been in and out of the hospital with recurring respiratory infections.  In late summer or early fall he was transferred to his home along with substantial equipment to keep him alive but the suggestion was that he would not recover and there was little indication as to whether he was conscious.  (In 2016 Bishop Desmond Tutu has criticized these decisions saying that it deprived Mandela of an opportunity for death with dignity.)

      Would you want to be kept alive in this way?  What do you think the impact on your family psychologically and financially?  Are there religious considerations for you?

2    Ariel Sharon died on the weekend of January 11. 2014.  He had been in a coma for 8 years after suffering a stroke.  The cause of death was organ failure. 

If you were in a coma from a stroke which might result in a long term stay in a hospital or nursing facility, how would you want to be treated?   Would you want to be kept alive or would you stipulate to those who were caring for you to terminate life sustaining care… after how many days, months, or years would you want this to happen?  What would be the impact on your family?  These are tough decisions which you should talk about with your proxy and your family.

3.      You may have read about a 13 year old girl in Oakland, CA who went into the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy and did not survive the operation.  The doctors determined that she was brain dead from measurements showing no electrical activity in her brain. 

Try thinking about this from the perspective of a spouse, yourself, or a  grown adult child or sibling.  What would you do if you were asked to make a decision about removing the ventilator which is keeping her/him alive?  Talk with those you love about your thoughts and possible decisions in this circumstance.

 

 

2 comments


  • These circumstances are definitely an eye opener as a parent. When I think of these issues, its always in terms of myself, husband and/or elderly family. My parental instinct is to do “whatever means necessary” to keep my child alive.
    The unfortunate situation for the 13 year old girl in Oakland will definitely leave us with something to thin about.

    February 14, 2014
    • admin

      This parental instinct is in all of us and it poses especially profound risks for older parents with children in their early adulthood. Most young adults never think about their mortality. But what if something really bad happens (a stroke, automobile accident, skiing or swimming accident, etc) and they are permanently disabled and perhaps unable to make decisions? What would they want? How expensive and how long is their care? You see, everyone has to have these decisions in place and have had the conversations necessary to make their wishes clearly known. In some cases, it is easy to imagine that parents could be bankrupted in short order or see their child consigned to really substandard care because of limited financial resources.

      An interesting and sad event took place in Indiana in November of 2013. A young man of 32 years of age suffered a fall from a tree while hunting. He fractured several vertebrae in his neck which required that he be on a ventilator to continue to breathe for the remainder if his life. He was put in a medically induced coma and his sister who was a nurse remembered that he had said that he would not want to continue his life if significantly impaired. The doctors agreed to bring him out of the coma so that he could be asked what his wishes were. He affirmed that he did not want to live in this state for any length of time and the ventilator was removed. Over five hours he and his family engaged in conversation, prayer and singing before he expired. In this case, his statements to his sister were key to the outcome.

      October 21, 2014

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