Posts Tagged ‘end of life decisions’

A Living Will Is Not Enough

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by karen


For the next few weeks, we are featuring some of our favorite blogs from years past. This entry was first published by In Care of Dad on February 24, 2011.


by Shira Tannor

My dad, a retired psychiatrist, died on St. Patrick’s Day 2009. Though he was nearly 84, his death came upon us suddenly in a whirlwind few days of pain and confusion. Dad had been diagnosed with squamous cell skin cancer and had had two surgeries in the span of three years, both times bouncing back from what seemed like nothing more than a mere nuisance. A robust man who rarely took as much as an aspirin, he soldiered on with confidence and optimism and so did we. But when his cancer appeared for a third time, and he was facing what he knew would be a prolonged and nasty fight, he understood with quiet dignity that this was not just another nuisance and opted for an aggressive course of chemotherapy as his last best shot. None of us thought when he started down this path that just two weeks later he’d be dead.

Dad was a responsible and pragmatic man who adored his family and kept us close. No surprise then that he had taken good care to provide for us in death as he’d always done in life. There was life insurance to cover funeral costs, burial plots for the entire family, a Family Trust, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies and a Living Will. Everything was up to date and in place. But when Dad suddenly lay intubated in a hospital bed, hooked to a bevy of life-prolonging devices, we discovered the hard way that he’d forgotten something critical — he never, ever talked to us about how we, as a family, would and should deal together with the difficult and heart-wrenching decisions to end his life.

For a man who made it his business to understand human nature, and who presided over family meetings on far lesser issues, Dad was strangely silent on this one. Keenly aware of our differences, chief among them that my brother, the firstborn and beloved only son, is an Orthodox Jew, Dad somehow never engaged us in any discussion of what we should do if faced with the terrible prospect of having to end his life. The plain vanilla language of his Living Will directed us to remove him from life support if he couldn’t live on his own, but there was no further instruction and, in those awful few days when his life had essentially slipped away and we most needed his wisdom, there were no more words. I wish there had been. We all did.

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Wrenching Choices At The End Of Life, Part II

Posted on June 24th, 2013 by karen


by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

I read an obituary last week that gave me pause. It was for a Mr. John Davis who died at age 87, peacefully, at home surrounded by his loving family. A true marvel in this age of high-tech medicine, an incredible array of medications for every ailment, and frequent hospital admissions for the elderly. I was envious!

Too often these days we die alone in a hospital bed, tubes in every orifice, surrounded by machines that beep and blink and hordes of medical personnel, all struggling to prolong life instead of allowing for a natural death. We seem to be so much more concerned with preserving life at any cost than we are at letting go when it’s time.

In the interest of my own end-of-life concerns, I have signed advance directives that give my adult children the responsibility of making decisions for me if I am unable to do so for myself, and I have spoken to them about this innumerable times. I know full well that when such a time comes, they will have to make difficult choices between maintaining my life even if there is no quality left or letting nature take its course.

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