Who’ll make medical decisions on my behalf should I be unable to do so on my own? Who’ll say when my quality of life has deteriorated to the point where further treatment should be terminated? Who, in short, will speak for me and ensure that I die a reasonably good death? Nothing morbid about these questions, given that there’s a 100% certainty that I’ll die one day and complicated by the fact my next-of-kin (two brothers) live 8,045 km (4,099 miles) and diverse beliefs, cultures, and languages away.
How about you: who’ll make decisions on your behalf should you be incapacitated after, say, a car accident, brain infection, severe stroke, or similar tragedy? Chances are that none will happen to you — chances are equally strong that something horrible will strike you tomorrow, the day after, or ten years from now. We all know of someone who seemed healthy one day and was told of life-threatening disease the next. Or others who happily departed in their vacation, never to return alive. I know of four people in my immediate circle who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis, who’re undergoing radiation and chemo treatment, as they wage their “courageous battles.”
Over the next few posts I plan to explore such topics — with the intention to lure death (not as abstract concept but as yours and mine) out of the closet. How might we prepare for the inevitable — spiritually, legally, financially, etc.? What arrangements might we put in place to help ourselves and others make important near-death decisions? What conversations might we have with friends about the ways we’d like to die and have our bodies disposed of? What medical-ethical issues deserve our attention. e.g., quality of life, palliative sedation, assisted suicide, heroic measures, do-not-resuscitate orders (DNR), living wills, and representation agreements?
Kindly exhale and stay tuned.
image: “By the deathbed” (1896) by Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Norwegian painter and print maker.