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nobody wants to die (but …)

I just finished watching a preview of Facing Death, an hour-long PBS documentary to be aired on November 23. The film charts the agonizing trajectory of four very sick people — and their loved ones and care givers — from the intensive care unit and last-ditch operations to their inevitable deaths.

Now I sit at the keyboard: sweating and troubled by questions that I’d rather avoid. What is a good death? Increasingly sophisticated gadgets and therapies can keep people alive for weeks and months, even when their underlying illness is beyond repair. I wonder: will I be capable of saying, “Let me die”? or will I cling to the hope that an experimental procedure or drug trial will rescue me? And who will decide when I’m unable to do so for myself: my friends, proxy, distant brothers, technology, politicians, ethicists, insurance companies? And what of quality of life: when does prolonged life become prolonged suffering — for myself and those at my bedside?

Please do yourself a favour and watch Then talk to those who you’d like to honour your wishes when the time comes … unless, of course, you’re not going to die, ever

p.s. do you have a Living Will or Representation Agreement, appointed a Health Care Proxy or Medical Power of Attorney? Find out what’s required in your jurisdiction.


5 responses »

  1. I’m making a will and living will tomorrow after having to fight with my sister’s doctor to allow her to
    die with dignity. We can’t let go. Medical technology has come just far enough to fool us into thinking we can prolong life, whether we should or not.
    Without a living will or health care agent, my sister was at the mercy of the physician’s judgement as to what “should be done”.

  2. dear linda, i sent a note to your blog. may your grief be deep so that you heart will grow and your compassion unfold. peter

  3. I watched this also, Peter and was so moved – also really appreciated the wisdom and compassion of the medics in this program – something I don’t always witness. Thankyou for the reminder to take the responsibility upon ourselves to reflect on this, to deligate a proxy and to have those potentially uncomfortable conversations.

  4. I watched the program …..I have had all the necessary legal paperwork in place for many years….the struggle I see at work every day has made that very real for me and therefore made it real for me to talk with my parents they have long both passed but the discussion has never been easy for my brothers and I know they have no plans in place so some day that will be a hard struggle.
    The thing I find the hardest is when patients are explained what can and can’t happen because of procedure or surgery the statistics are usually that you have a 5% chance of all this going wrong but what people don’t grasp is that when that 5% happens to you or your loved one it is happening 100%. I often feel that we have lost sight of quality of life. I will never really know where I am at until it really happens to me like you said in your blog Peter…………….

    • It is a film that bears watching again…if you can bear it! I also read the comments and most if not all are in agreement about the heart wrenching compexities of technological death and the need for more appropriate palliative care. Now, if I can just get my husband to watch it…perhaps when it airs on TV, we can have another discussion. All of our parents are gone. Both mothers had good palliative care (of course they did…I was there!), my dad died suddenly and my f-i-l died fairly quickly although he had been in heart failure for a few years with a good quality of life.


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