I haven’t posted in a few months, for mostly personal reasons. Majority are health related, not applicable here.
I want to talk about Brittany Maynard. Moreso, I want her discussion to lead to a discussion which goes viral.
My response to this article:
Death is a part of life. The Lion King is cliche but it’s a circle. We start with life, we become the earth, other organisms are sustained by this. Talking about death is not scary. What is terrifying is an individual and a family suddenly faced with a situation where decisions need to be made very quickly, sometimes before emotions can cool and reasonable discussion can take place. In the medical field, this unfortunate situation happens all the time, and I only work in family medicine, not the emergency room or other sudden trauma situation.
Have the discussion with your family. Think about what YOU want. And when you decide what YOU want, find those friends & family you KNOW will get your wishes done despite their own personal feelings, when/if/should you pass unexpectedly. Organ donoror no, or only some organs? Life support or no, or to what extent? Feeding tube or no, and to what extent? CPR or no?
I strongly encourage you to consult with both your family AND your medical provider, who can help ensure the proper/legal paperwork is in place to help make sure your wishes are carried out to the letter. I encourage anyone who doesn’t know what they want, want help having the discussion, have questions, etc. schedule an appointment with their provider specifically to discuss this topic.
Because whether or not we recognize it, just like taxes, we have NO choice but to deal with it. It’s either your predetermined wishes or those of family members consulted after death. There are NO wrong and NO right answers. The correct answer is the one which fits with YOUR wishes. This is one of the most important discussions EVERYONE regardless of age or health or sex should discuss with their medical provider, and if not their provider for whatever reason, their friends & family they want in place for when death happens, expected or sudden
Patients don’t always know that their wishes can be changed at ANY time, and for any reason. If yesterday you were ok with a ventilator and today you’re not, or vice versa, it can be changed in real time, and made legal. You don’t need a lawyer, and it doesn’t cost anything to complete a health care proxy and a living will in New York State. Your family medical provider (or hospital staff, if you are inpatient) are able to give you all the tools you need to create a legally binding document (which your lawyer should have, should you have one). I will not give opinions on any decisions, but I will GLADLY share my experience to help ANYONE become more aware of the discussion and the process.
As a medical professional, I don’t care what your wishes are. My concern is that they are known. My larger concern is that your wishes are legally documented so there is no question should something happen. Your feelings about your death are SO profound. Nobody asked if you wanted to be born vaginal or via c-section, did they.
It’s time to greatly expand the conversation so it’s not so uncomfortable and awkward, and eliminate the stigma about the entire discussion. Just because you’re thinking about how you want to be treated medically when you can’t speak for yourself does NOT mean you have a death wish. It does NOT mean you expect to be stricken with a severe illness or a sudden fatal disease. It does NOT mean you are worried about dying in a car accident.
What this ultimately does, is to get you thinking about how you want things to go, because you DO have options, regardless of the situation. This talk, although it may be a bit awkward, opens a dialogue of communication. And the sheer weight it removes from the shoulders of those who will be asked about your wishes when the time comes is absolutely worth the awkward discussion, be it three days or three years before the time they are being asked.
What a blessing it is to be able to make medical decisions for your loved one who can’t speak on their own behalf, yet still know what they would decide, if they were able. Even if you disagree, you are still able to ensure their choice is being followed. This allows you to continue to be a family member, and not the “one” who made all the decisions on “fill in the blank”s behalf.
As a medical professional, I cannot stress how important and vital and beneficial this discussion is to the health of any relationship, including people with children, kids just turning into adults and in charge of their health care decisions for the first time in their lives. Hopefully this conversation will evolve over the years among the involved family/friend members, so it remains current.
My own personal experience, which I’ve been reluctant to share because I don’t want it to bias this post, is when my Gram was dying in 2011. She had a living will and a trustworthy healthcare proxy. Although as her family we may not have fully supported her decisions (I will not divulge details) we knew in advance what they were, and were able to ensure they were followed. That was the greatest gift she gave us. Well, that and her uncompromising stubbornness, but mostly her preemptive discussion about her death.