Life is full of limitless opportunities. Yet, there is also a roughly-edged limit to life — and that limit is caused by time and perspective. This is especially true in the stories of terminally-ill patients. In “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande, a woman named Sara was diagnosed with lung cancer during her pregnancy with her first child. As a non-smoker, healthy and exercising individual, the news was shocking. From that point on, Sara and her family began the spiraling route towards an “aggressive managing” of the cancer. Despite their efforts and open-mindedness to a multitude of treatments and drugs, cancer was beating Sara. There was simply no cure. At this point, if you were Sara, how would you like to live out the rest of your life? Would life-prolonging drugs be the way to go? Or would you use drugs to diminish your pains and, thus, heighten the quality of your end-of-life health?
As a terminally-ill patient, there seems to be only two options: It is either to fight or to let go. Both options include a certain degree of acceptance of death. With the first option, the patient would continue to fight with the slim chance of overcoming death. During this fight, the patient would continue to use life-prolonging drugs and other treatments in an attempt to cure the disease. The other option is to let go and let the natural course of the disease to pass through. Awhile doing so, the patient could use medicine to guide themselves to a peaceful death. There is not one right option; however, whatever the patient decides is the best option for them. If you knew you would die anyway, what would you choose to do? Try to think of the long-term effects of your decision before you commit to it.
Some things to think about:
- Is it cowardly for others to accept their fate and not fight with life-prolonging drugs?
- Or is it more cowardly for others to fight against the disease knowing they would die anyways (because they refused to accept death)?
- If you were going to leave your family with expenses, because of your death process, what would you do now to aid them with that?
With that being said, medicine should do whatever the patient desires. Even when the treatment cannot save his/her life, the patient should have the last word on what type of treatment they would like to go through. With me, personally, if I was facing a terminal illness, knowing that my family would be left with prolonged grieving and financial expenses on behalf of me— I think I would just let go. I would like to consider my decision as rational and practical for my interests and my family’s interests. For end-of-life medicinal measures, I would use anything to lessen pain or calm my anxieties. However, if I wasn’t suffering greatly, then I would choose to not use any medication. That way, I would leave quicker and I would not drain extra expenses. That would grant me the most satisfaction for that situation.
End-of-life care doesn’t need to be scary or bleak. Although there is always a limit, there are always choices that you can make to improve the life of your own and the life of others around you.