“Letting Go”


After reading Atul Gawande’s, “Letting Go”, I feel like I have more insight about the end of life problems and process that people face when they are terminally ill. It makes me wonder if the treatments we put ourselves and our loved ones through to save their life, really improve our chances at living longer, or do they merely allow us to live longer but in an uncomfortable manner. From reading about Monopoli it is evident that after all the radiation and chemotherapy treatments that she underwent, her health worsened and she most likely didn’t die as peacefully as she could have. But it’s not my right to say that her and her family should not have fought for her life by trying every available treatment, because most likely I would have done that for one of my family members. It does really get me thinking that maybe for myself, if this situation ever happened to me, I would consider trying a couple treatments for a short amount of time, and if no progress, turn to hospice and do my best to get my family to understand that this is what I know is best for me.

I think there comes a certain point when you know that the end is near and from the story it seems better to confront it and try to have your last moments be as pain free and as special as they can be. This is what I think medicine should do, when it can’t save your life. It should make your last moments easy, not difficult. You should be able to die comfortably, not in pain or in a hospital room, by yourself or surrounded by people you don’t know. It shouldn’t be a fight till the end, it should just be a letting go and a moving on process in my opinion. As in the case of Galloway, it seemed he died very peacefully and surrounded by the people he cared about most, all because the medicine he was taking was easing his pain and allowing him to be mentally aware that his life was ending and that he needed to make the most of his last moments. I would much rather be mentally aware than in and out of consciousness or on ventilators or with 100 life saving tubes coming in and out of my body. I wouldn’t want my family to see me in that kind of state, I would rather them know I died painlessly and with them by my side, rather than alone and in an unfamiliar place. When medical practitioners know that they cannot save my life or that my health will in fact worsen, I would rather them take the time to talk to me and make my family and make us aware of end of life options, rather than trying to be positive about treatments that will most likely worsen my health and “prolong” my life. Like in the case of the 29 year old patient with an inoperable tumor, the fact that the oncologist took the time to speak with the patient as well as his family, really made all the difference in the patient choosing hospice care and having his last moments of life the way he truly wanted, which was peacefully with his family.

I will not deny the fact though, that when it comes to younger loved one’s it is harder to make these decisions. Especially when it is for a child. Wouldn’t you want to do whatever possible to save your child’s life? Indeed I would want to do whatever possible, but there does come a point where I would not bear to see my child suffer any longer, I would rather they die peacefully, in their home, with me by their side, than through intensive treatments and with intensive fear. This is where medicine should again ease their pain and suffering and just let the death take its course.

With this, it is still hard to say what a person and their loved one’s will really do when it comes to situations like this. It all depends on what kind of illness is present, what the chances are, and what the underlying wants are for the patient. But no one truly knows how you will react in these types of situations or what other issues may arise until they happen to you, making it all the more difficult of a process.


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