Letting Go…

I believe that when medicine cannot save your life, it should make you as comfortable as possible and allow you to live the remainder of your days with peace and dignity. Now words like peaceful and dignity aren’t clear cut medical terms but I think it is what most of us would hope for when we approach our own deaths. In Sara’s case in “Letting Go” it would have been to make her comfortable an allow her to enjoy her newborn baby, without struggling with chemotherapy and other medications. This would have meant for not only Sara and her family to “let go” but also the doctors. In fact, my impression of Sara and her husband Rich is that they both tried to stay positive and managed to maintain optimism even in the face of her diagnosis and poor prognosis. It was the doctors that seem to have a hard time letting go. They knew Sara’s prognosis was bleak and yet they kept prescribing drug after drug and procedure after procedure, many of them with adverse side effects that made Sara ill or caused her discomfort. This is where Sara missed her peace and dignity in her death. She was on medications that would at best maybe let her live another month or two but made her break out in “an extreme, nearly overwhelming allergic response” and this is on top of all the symptoms that chemotherapy can cause.

Peace and dignity also factored in Craig’s decision to seek out a physician assisted suicide in The Suicide Tourist. He faced a terminal diagnosis and after losing most movement in his limbs he refused to decline any further and ended his life. I also think this is an acceptable use for medicine in cases like Craig’s.  He maintained his dignity by not allowing himself to decline to the point where he would need feeding tubes, to have someone clean and change him, and to have his family witness his condition. He was also able to die in peace- listening to his favorite song, his wife holding his hand as he simply drifted off to a wakeless sleep.

In Sara’s case medicine could not save her life and was used to prolong it unnecessarily. In Craig’s case it was used the opposite way and ended his life. While killing you certainly isn’t the end goal in medicine at end of life, it was much more effective in Craig’s scenario. It made him comfortable and allowed him to die in peace.



10 thoughts on “Letting Go…

  1. I most definitely agree with you that the medicine should help you to be peaceful at the end of life stages. I feel like that is why hospice is such a great and under used program. When the lady that came to speak to us was teaching us about all of the benefits of having hospice care, I just couldn’t believe that so few people used the service. I feel like it kind of goes hand-in-hand with what you are saying. People deserve to live out the end of their lives pain free, and with dignity. I feel like in a world where we have no other choice then to die the way we were intended, that using a pain free way of doing it is definitely ideal!

  2. I too found it interesting that doctors must also be able to let go. I feel as though a personality characteristic of most doctors may be that they tend to be over achievers (in a good way) and prideful. As a doctor, you want to cure your patient at any cost. However, sometimes one may need to admit the circumstance and realize nothing else can be done. Weighing out the risks of possible side effects is extremely important, especially at the end of life when the body is more susceptible to infection. I think it takes a lot for a doctor to call curative care quits and recommend hospice, but it needs to become a real option for more of them. When it comes to the specific duty of a doctor, I believe most think its to purely save lives. Maybe it is time to reconsider this job description and make it more about increasing quality of life.

  3. It is an interesting and unknown aspect when you think of the doctors situation. As a patient, or a family member of the patient that is dying, you don’t realize that the doctor has some sort of say. Although you can still override his ruling, you don’t realize that maybe they have become attached to the patient and does not want to give up on them. To some doctors, withdrawing live saving treatment from a patient that they believe that they could save could constitute giving up in their eyes. This is the last thing that they want to do. But just as the patient and the family members, they have to learn to let go. It’s an underreported situation, but I believe it happens.

  4. I have never thought about it that way, when you explained that it is also the doctors that have to let go and realize there isn’t much they can do. In Sara’s case, her doctor just kept getting her on different medications that were not doing anything. Although it is important to try new drugs, after Sara’s cancer spread and the results were not positive, it would have been easier on her and doctors to agree that nothing else can be done. I agree that she should have let go earlier and enjoy her baby with whatever time she had left to live. I also like how you included Craig is this post because he did “let go” and had control on how he was going to die.

  5. I liked your choice of picture from the start! I share your same ideas in which “when medicine cannot save your life, it should make you as comfortable as possible and allow you to live the remainder of your days with peace and dignity”. I think your perspective in which it was the doctors whom couldn’t let go is also very interesting; they certainly shouldn’t have pushed her so far during her final time with her newborn and husband. I also really like that you tied in Craig’s decision to use medicine for ending life to show the other side of the coin. In Craig’s case, medicine truly did ease his pain as it should do when it cannot save your life.

  6. I completely agree that when medicine cannot save you life it should do as much as it possibly can to alleviate your pain/symptoms to the best of its ability. No one should suffer needlessly just because a treatment option did not do what it was supposed to do. If the patient wants to continue treatments that are have negative side effects then thats treating their wishes in how they want to proceed but I do agree that the doctors shouldn’t be pushy with medical treatments, I do think that they have a responsiblity to atleast offer all the possible options to the patient. Once the information has been presented then its up to the patient and their family to do with the information as they please. A healthy discussion must be made about how to proceed when the original treatments don’t work or stop being effective.

  7. I think it’s in interesting point that you brought up Criag’s decision in the movie. It brings up the interesting point that if medicine can’t save your life should it be able to end it? I, personally, feel on the fence about this one. If someone does not feel that they are living a life the want despite countless efforts to try and rid the feelings, getting up in the morning and everyday life is just plain torture, why do they not have the right to end their life? Yet, someone who doesn’t want to die, but wants to end the suffering and burden the experience, has the right? Now while personally I have dealt with depression, I had never had thought of suicide. To reach that point with depression is such a low point that vary rarely medicine completely fixes you, and one feels it for so long before they begin to make that feeling. But here we have a person who is told that they are dying and they cannot change that, able to commit suicide that is not looked down at in socitey.

  8. I liked how you pointed out that at Sara’s doctors were prolonging her illness and discomfort by continuing to give her one surgery and procedure after another. A lot of the times I think that doctors do this so they don’t lose a patient. No doctor wants to lose a patient, however at what point do they start think about the current well being of the patient and not a would-be patient of the future. I also enjoyed Sara and her family’s optimism about her illness. I liked how they didn’t let the illness get in the way of enjoying the days that everyone should be happy about, like the birth of their first child. She fought and fought with her family behind her every step of the way. But once the treatments stopped working and the doctors seen that it was extremely unlikely for her to recover, they should have presented her with options that included increasing the quality of the rest of her life. I think that ultimately the decision should always be in the patient’s hands because its their body and their life. A person should live out their life as they choose, no matter who they are or how long they have to live.

  9. I agree with that fact that if medicine cannot save your life then it should be used to alleviate the pain. Where I disagree is that the doctors were prolonging Sara’s life unnecessarily, it is the duty of a doctor to keep a person alive to the best of their ability and leave it up to the patient and family to decide what they want to do. I really like the way you said how medicine was used to kill Craig but also let him die in peace. That view offers a unique twist that I haven’t seen before.

  10. Just like others have responded, I completely agree that the most essential thing to hold on to at the end of life is our dignity and peace. A lot of people blame medicine for unnecessarily prolonging lives, but however, we need to understand that doctors and the other medical staffs are humans too. If you had the power to save someone’s life, you will probably use that power to its fullest potential to ensure that that person is alive at the end. It is extremely hard not to play the hero, and standby while someone who is terminally ill slowly deteriorates. However, doctors and others working in medical institutions need to give that power of choice to the patient and their families, because at the end of the day some people value their quality of life over their quantity of life. For others, it is the opposite. I think that Sara valued quantity over quality. Of course, she desired to live her final days without pain, but she wanted to fight for her life because she had so much to look forward to in the future, especially with her newborn child.

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