Taking responsibility with EOL Decisions

I feel like Susan Jacoby proves a very valid point in showing the contradiction that is apparent between the value that American society places on personal choices, and America’s reluctance to make their own decisions regarding their own death. It makes one wonder, what exactly are the reasons for this large contradiction? It seems like Americans are always consistent at choosing what kind of car they want, what kind of school their children go to, what types of insurance they have, etc., but when it comes to end of life decisions such as having a living will or other types of advanced healthcare directive, why is it that so many Americans neglect it, or are too ignorant to even think of having one?


Regardless of what age someone is, if an unexpected or traumatic event happens, causing them to become incompetent, then who is able to make their decisions for them if they haven’t did so yet themselves? The answer to this is a surrogate, usually being the next of kin who can be anyone from a spouse, a child, or parents depending on the situation. Not knowing exactly what it is that a person wants can place extreme amounts of stress on the surrogate (or surrogates), who may be unsure as well. Like in the article, “Taking Responsibility for Death,” the side story that is told of how an adult daughter throws a coffee pot at her brother for suggesting that their comatose mother be taken off her respirator. It is clear that many different factors and controversies may arise when discussing what should be done with the patient, who in fact has no chance of getting better. This is why it is important for the person to have some kind of Healthcare directive. It take the stress off of their family in ways that they do not have to make the ultimate decision of ending that person’s life. It also can help so that tens of thousands of dollars of medical bill aren’t piling up, simply for keeping a person alive who has no chance of becoming better. Although I would hate to see a beloved family member be taken off their life-sustaining medical device, if that was what they ultimately wanted then I would respect their wishes knowing that it is their own choice of ending their own life instead of not staying alive and in agony.


If a person doesn’t have any kind of healthcare directive, then the surrogates makes the decision based on what they think is best based on what the doctor tells them. At this point communication is critical, so that the patient knows exactly what is going on. It is up to the patient to ask questions and sometimes even question the healthcare provider and make decisions accordingly based on what they think their loved one would prefer the most. It is also up to them to question the types of treatment that their loved one would be getting as well, and know whether it can in fact, possibly help the patient recover, or simply just prolong the dying process, making it that much more harder on everybody. Asking questions is the best thing a surrogate can do to insure that the best plan of action can be carried out; one that would not only benefit the dying person the most, but benefit everyone around them as well.


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