A touching and important blog deserves close reading, though have a tissue near by.
It’s from Dr Kimberly Manning, who works at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta Georgia. In it she describes how and why the decision was made not to prolong unnecessarily the life of one Mrs Cafferty and how it was accepted by her family, there at the hospital by the side of the dying woman.
When challenged by a colleague why the medical team shouldn’t do all they could to keep this patient alive, Dr Manning replied: “Mrs Cafferty is dying.”
The blog continues: “I stated the facts and left it at that. In silence, it set in. I could see their wheels turning. Imagining those same things that I was thinking like, Why are we sticking her with needles and pricking her fingers for blood sugars when those things hurt? Why are we not focusing on keeping her as comfortable as possible?
“We entered her room that morning and…discussed these things with the family. By this point, Mrs Cafferty was lapsing in and out of consciousness, so this conversation took place with her children. And no, this was not the first time that the subject of end-of-life care had been brought up with them, but it was the first time they were ready to accept what was happening.
“ “Let her go in peace,” the eldest daughter finally said. “This is our decision. Mama would not want us to keep her alive this way. Please just keep her comfortable.” The rest of the family nodded in sombre agreement.”
Why this is important is that it describes a changing of a mindset that assumes the medical profession should do all it can to keep someone alive regardless of the diminution of quality of that life, to one where the futility of such intervention leads to its withdrawal. And so, with the informed consent of the family, medical treatment is ended so that death can come naturally, with no more tubes, chemicals, machines or doctors’ valuable time used to delay the inevitable.
In short, society and the medical profession are beginning to believe that while the prolonging of life is accepted as a medical absolute, to prolong death is a futile, cruel and costly perversion.
To make this changing view of medical practice more acceptable, it’s essential that people have their individual death plans, filled in following discussion by the ailing patient, their close family, their medical professionals and if appropriate a minister of religion.
My Last Song has created a holistic death plan that covers the medical, physical, emotional, spiritual and practical issues, even down to who looks after the pets. It includes considerations such as the aromas the patient wants to smell, music to hear, people to be present, where the patient wants to end their life and, of course, the level of medical intervention.
Its aim is to make the end of life as comfortable and comforting as possible.
The easy to complete template can be found in the Lifebox section of My Last Song. Once filled in, it can be securely stored, updated and accessed by selected loved ones so the end of life experienced by the dying will be one supported by those like Dr Manning who have the quality of their patients’ lives foremost in their minds.