One of the most insightful comments that I ever received came during one of the most difficult times in my life. My Aunt Pat was the one to deliver these insightful comments.
My Dad had just died of pancreatic cancer days before and my aunt came to comfort her sister – my Mom. During one of the days before my Dad’s funeral, she discussed losing her husband George years earlier and his continuing long struggle with cancer.
In discussing the prolonged decline of her husband, she made the following insightful comments. Apparently, the very well-intended doctors handling the declining health of George stated that they would be able to extend his life.
With hopeful intentions, they decided to follow the doctor’s stated treatment to extend his life. What my Aunt stated, and I believe everyone needs to know is the following:
While it is true that the doctors’ were able to extend George’s life for a few more months, what was not well discussed by the medical doctors was what George’s quality of life would be for these few extra months. George had to endure very painful chemotherapy treatments which made his life difficult.
George spent his “additional” time either going to and from treatments or being in treatments. In addition, after the treatments, he was uncomfortable. They both wished that they had not started the additional treatments to extend his life.
All of us should understand that the medical profession’s job is noble. It is to extend human life. We all need to determine if using extraordinary means to do so is what we wish. In addition, we need to push to get clarification on what these additional months would entail so that we could decide if it is worth it.
We always discuss with our clients the need to have a medical directive which expresses our end-of-life wishes. Recently, it became clear for me how important this document is for the person that you authorize to fulfill that very difficult decision.
Allowing that person to fully understand what your specific desires are will make it much easier for the authorized person when the time comes to make that heart-breaking decision.
These decisions are best made before one becomes ill when the discussions about extraordinary care can be made clear to your loved ones.
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