My health-care story: A 'death panel' of two
By Cheryl Jackson Logan
At some point in the life of nearly every responsible adult who has a sick, elderly parent, there may come the opportunity to sit on a death panel.
This month, while having a discussion with my significant other about whether to establish a do-not-resuscitate order for his father, who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s disease, we looked at each other and said, “Did we just conduct a death panel?” The decision my partner came to is a private matter, so I will not share it, but I can share the decision my family reached as my mother approached the end of her four-year battle with multiple myeloma.
This particularly insidious cancer has no cure and causes extreme bouts of pain in almost all patients. When it came time to consider hospice care and ending curative treatment, the decision was simple. Her quality of life and ending her suffering were our family’s chief concerns. We had no regard for the larger political context or philosophical questions about “the sanctity of human life.” We just loved our mother, wife, sister and friend very much.
The doctors explained her situation. She had been part of a research study, and we had grown to know and to trust them. We had seen them go from exuberance about her progress at the beginning of her treatment to compassionate half-smiles toward the end. They didn’t have to say it; we knew it and, more important, she knew it. We dealt with this fact of life as a family. It was ultimately her decision, but she needed our confirmation to know that it was okay.
So as this health debate rages on, I implore those who might be tempted to use the concept of so-called death panels to score points to remember: The debate is not about keeping people alive, it is about living.
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