Death Panels

September 24, 2009
  • Politics

I thoght this article was interesting, and I particularly liked a comment directly after the article:

Article

Comment:

_Oregons law is only a public acknowledgment of what sensible and kindly doctors everywhere have been doing all along: helping people manage their own deaths. Why is this such a shocking concept?

I live in a different state, and I have been closely involved in caring for two dying family members:

At the end of my husbands life, he was fully lucid but wracked with galloping metastases all through his body. The doctor knew and trusted us. He put his career in our hands by prescribing a whole bottle of morphine tablets, and explaining exactly how many tablets would constitute an overdose. When my husband chose, at home with his family and friends around, he put all the tablets into a dish of pudding, said his goodbyes with a lot of laughter and some crying, and painlessly slipped away.

My father was in his late eighties and had suffered a stroke. He was unable to recognize anyone or to care for himself in any way. When he came down with pneumonia in the nursing home, the doctors and nurses there very gently told us that pneumonia is called the old mans friend, because it can take people quickly at the end of their lives. The nursing home medical staff were all fully supportive of our decision to decline the chest x-ray, the antibiotics, and the transfer to a hospital. They administered morphine for comfort, and quietly explained that (since we were more or less camped out in my fathers room) we could request additional doses of morphine which would go beyond comfort measures and depress respiration. My father died that day peacefully in my brothers arms.

If Im just one person and Ive had these two experiences, they cant be that unusual. Maybe if we openly acknowledged that this kind of help with dying is actually commonplace, our society could shake loose of its fear of death. And we might be brave enough to recognize when the most compassionate act is to hold open the door for the dying person, rather than padlocking it shut with expensive and tortuous technology._

It's tragic that we, as a country, can't talk about mature and difficult issues. Why are we so against things that are inevitable? Why are sex and death the two most taboo topics in America?