Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To die peacefully at home

As opposed to dying in hospital, wired to fancy electronic instruments, stuck full of needles, wakened at the staff's convenience rather that your own. Many elderly desperately want to just die quietly, at home. They fear the arrival of ambulances to haul them off to uncomfortable, unpleasant and scary hospitals. Where, after a round of unpleasant and uncomfortable procedures, they die anyway.
The way things are now, their health deteriorates until something bad happens, a stroke, a fall, an infection, death can come in many ways. Then the loved ones call 911, the ambulance arrives, and granny is carted off to a hospital because that's procedure, and age and illness have sapped her powers to say NO, Leave me be, at home. We ought to something to make it easier for the truly elderly to refuse heroic medical treatments and just pass away quietly, at home, surrounded by family rather than paid medical staff.
This path is not for everyone. Plenty of elderly desire to live longer and it is totally unethical to deny them treatment. Sorting out the two cases is very difficult, especially for EMT's manning the ambulance, to say nothing of doctors at the hospital.
Resolution of these cases properly lies with the doctor. A conscientious doctor ought to know something of his patient's mind, and should feel free to permit a patient to return home if that is what the patient truly desires. In some cases the family's wishes should be taken into account. But when the possible treatment is unlikely to help, and the patient doesn't want to under go said treatment, a doctor ought to be able to discharge the patient to die at home without fear of a malpractice suit.


Evan said...

Completely agree, most developed countries use hospice care and have end of life care discussions with the doctors routinely. I'd much rather go quietly at home.

Unfortunately not many people like to think about their own mortality and talk it over with their doctors.

Dstarr said...

Unfortunate but natural. I find the subject of my own death unpleasant and not a topic of casual conversation.