Monday, January 27, 2014

NRU - on brain death, grief and hospitals

There are too many emotions around this for me -- but I cannot look away.

This is an article ostensibly about the definitions of life and death and brain death.

I thought this counterpoint to the above article was fascinating and frustrating ... demonstrating that this idea of life/death is not nearly as cut and dry as many would have us believe.  And... it demonstrates that those who ultimately get to decide often make decisions based on their own biases rather than some sterile scientific definition -- and that these deliberations rarely take into account the lives the decision will most affect -- those of the loved ones.  UGH.

[Update since I drafted this -- the Texas court decided to order the hospital to honor the families' wishes and the hospital has decided not to take the legal action further and comply with the court order.]

This is an article written by the McMath's attorney -- much maligned in the comments of the SF Chronicle -- I am guessing that is why he published it in the LA Times instead.  Here is the article the LA Times put together about reader responses to Dolan.

Coincidentally (?) while I was preparing this draft, another story about a family that took home their child in a vegetative state came out -- at his death, after 31 years, his family was laying him to rest.  It was clear in the story that their love for him had never wavered - even though he was never able to communicate his wishes to the family, they kept him with them and alive

Bottom line, there is so much we don't know about the line between life/death -- I am inclined to believe that families should be given a fairly wide latitude to decide how to care for their loved ones.  I am pretty sure that the more contentious it is, the less the family feels able to let go.  Despite what the disconnected "cool heads" think they believe, until it is their loved one lying in a hospital bed, they really do not know what they would do.  It is one of the reasons it is so important, when possible, to know what your loved ones intend about their lives.  Obviously, when it is a child, it is difficult to impossible to know what end of life provisions he/she would want. 

As promised, this is also NRU about hospitals ... and, so, I could not pass up another article about the hospital that allowed a woman to wander away from her bed, into a locked and abandoned stairwell, and die... I know that there are good people who work at usually excellent hospitals, but then there are others.  What do we take away from this?

I was hoarding these articles because I thought I would be able to write about how these issues affect me right now.  Turns out I am not ready to write about that just now, maybe tomorrow; maybe next week; maybe longer.

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