Reading, “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande has only confirmed my thoughts on medicine at the end of life. Medicine at the end of life should be there in order to provide comfort and relieve pain. I do not believe in dragging out a life that is ready to end. However, it is very easy to see how this becomes the route for many, even for those who did not wish for it, such as Sara in this short story. Fear of dying is real for many, even worse for those who face it within their presence. One may think they are ready to confront death head on when it is their time, to only change their mind at that moment.
When medicine cannot save a life we tend to disregard this information. We tend to think medicine will always save a life. If it is not the current medication or treatment, it will be another. We grasp onto this thread of hope because we are all afraid of losing the ones we love or the unknown of what happens after death. After much reflection, I have come to realize it is usually the family members who will be left behind that push new treatments when others do not work. The family must be ready to confront the disease and death of their loved one as much as the patient. Allowing curative care to be stopped may be seen as admitting defeat, as if you are allowing your loved one to die. However, that is not the case. It is merely the acceptance of another type of care, in which the ending moments of life can be lived out as one had always hoped.
Before class discussion and reading this article, hospice scared me. Now, that I am more knowledgeable I find myself an advocate. For me, the answer to this question is simple. When medicine can no longer save my life I want it to make my death bearable. I want it to help maintain homeostasis for a small amount of time so I can say my goodbyes and part with the world on my terms. For terminally ill patients the disease controls their lives. Having a bit of the control back, given by the benefits of medicine to stop the suffering, would be an amazing gift at that point. The title of the article says it all. Being able to let go: the fear, the battle, and the pain, that is what medicine should help you do at the end of life.