Heroism Comes In Many Forms

This article in Pajamas Media is deeply disturbing to me, but I think it is important to read. It is written by someone who is called on unexpectadly to oversee the care in hospital of an uncle who had previously signed a “do not resucitate” form. The doctors in the hospital recommend that he be put into a hospice, where he will be given morphine to control his pain, but will have no food given to him so that he can die.

The author describes her dillema, and describes the hospice workers, who, despite their orders, secretly give their patients food, and are wary of giving too much morphine as this hastens death. They do this because they are mostly religious (presumed Catholics), and follow what they believe rather than the strict orders of the doctors and nurses. Heroism comes in many forms – this is surely one of them.

The author also depicts someone she dubs Nurse Kevorkian, and her (in my opinion, blood-curdling) zeal to make sure that the hospice patients die as they supposedly have wished.

The author also points out the thought provoking idea that in this case at least, there was the possibility that her uncle had signed the form while clinically depressed.  I have wondered why noone has challenged these “end of life forms”  (for want of a better term) on the ground that the person signing them really does not know what it means. How can someone healthy agree to a specific treatment (or non-treatment in this case) for a future instance of fatal illness, when they don’t really understand the ramifications?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 00:43:51

    What a horrible thing that there are nurses who go against the express, written, and legally binding wishes of people who are dying, and that of their families. Shame on anyone who prolongs the suffering of another human being by witholding pain medication and/or sneaking food in where it is not wanted. How anyone could imagine that it is okay to substitute their own judgement in place of a patient they don’t even know is beyond me.

  2. canadiankobi
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 02:48:23

    My line of work takes me from hospitals to hospices to nursing homes. The truly upsetting thing about the “end of life forms” and their interpretation is that in Canada the government has legislation which determines FOR the family what will happen to their loved one if they HAVEN’T signed an “end of life form”. So as scary as trusting the hospice/nursing home/hospital staff person standing there over your loved one might at first appear to be… it is infintely more scary to imagine or seeing – as i have – an office dwelling government bureaucrat make these decisions by fax machine and email having never even met the person who’s life hangs in the balance.

    BTW… since going to Israel earlier this year i follow the events in the Middle East now using two main sources… jpost.com and westbankmama. Keep it coming!

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