Letting Go- when the end is near

Is it not enough to want to live? Could you imagine knowing that each breath you take may be your last? Would you search an endless tunnel hoping for the light? After reading “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande it is clear that medicine can ultimately give you only hope for the light, but never the taste of tomorrow.

It is a reality that we as humans are fragile and a ticking time bomb and nothing we do will keep us on this earth forever. The cruel and sad truth is we are unwilling to accept this fact and we always strive for the option to “prolong life” when we know death is near. The article highlights a young Sarah, a healthy and active woman who was diagnosed with cancer before the birth of her child. She was a fighter and her family fought through the darkness hoping for the light every step of the way. We all do. As time passes us we fight for what we love, what we want to keep as long as possible. Sarah’s’ story is heard countless times by palliative- care specialist like Susan Block. So what do we learn about the medicine that we have determined will keep us alive? Honestly, I believe the hardest treatment is letting go.

So what should medicine do when it cannot save your life? As physicians they must do everything in their power to prolong our life, as a patient we need to hear the option for something else, and as a family we grief in the worry. Medicine only buys our time to stay a little longer, not with certainty to be here forever. Yes, we have options set up for survival or E.O.L documents created to make sure our last wishes are met. It is however in my opinion that medicine should not be an excuse to continue the fight for the sorrowful truth that we cannot be saved. It is heartbreaking to hear and if anyone has to be the one to make the choice to live or die it has to be harder.

My aunt was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, and she knew she was going to die because it was a growing disease that could not be defeated. She has three children, and they were not wealthy but she was very wise and organized. I remember my mother worrying about a sister who was deteriorating in another country and scared to see her go. My mother could not bear the thought to bury her. But my aunt she lived her final days accepting the fact that tomorrow was not guaranteed. It was her children who needed the guidance so she laid out everything before they were forced to make a decision. She wanted to swim in the sea, she wanted to travel, and she forgave and said everything she wanted to say. Medicine couldn’t save her – but living to her fullest did.



One thought on “Letting Go- when the end is near

  1. I don’t agree that physicians are obligated to prolong life. I do think they are obligated to make sure a patient understands when medicine can no longer heal them. Offering clinical trials to the dying patient may not benefit them directly. However, it may be a way for the patient to help others by advancing research. The patient who understands they are not being offered a magic bullet and agrees to the risks involved is different from the patient who is hoping to grasp that last available lifeline. It sounds like your aunt chose to accept her death and enjoy the time she had with her family with no regrets. It is sad that most people cannot do the same.

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