Responsibility at End of Life

Regarding end of life and the decisions made at and about that time, I feel that one has many responsibilities. The first is to themselves. Only you know how you personally feel about receiving life sustaining treatment, when its appropriate to continue and when it is best to stop. Knowing this, you owe it to yourself to ensure that your wishes will be respected and followed. There is also a responsibility to consider family when making these decisions. The family is already going through the stress and trauma of potentially losing a loved one at this time, and the stress of making EOL decisions or fighting over them does not need to be added to their burden. This doesn’t mean that family cannot be included in these decisions, that is encouraged. It just means that they should be taken care of ahead of time to reduce stress later.

When it comes to a family questioning a health care provider, I think that is essential. While the care provider has a better understanding of the medical side of EOL decisions, they don’t have as strong of an understanding of the individual, their feelings and beliefs, and the family itself. The family’s questioning of the provider and their treatment can ensure that all of the patient’s needs and wishes are met, not just the medical ones. Also, I think that sometimes physicians are so concerned with saving the patient and fighting illness that they can fail to see the futility of their own treatments. The individual and family may see this futility and can spare additional suffering and expenses by questioning and refusing treatments. There is also another unfortunate reason why the family should be able to question a health care provider, and that is because some may not have the patient’s best interest in mind. They may order more treatments, more tests and more medications in order to seek additional payment and reimbursement. While I think that it is the exception, this type of activity does happen and is something else to consider when discussing the ability to question a doctor’s orders.

As part of a death denying culture and just as a living person, it is natural to fear death and the subjects surrounding it. But on so many heartbreaking occasions, this fear has kept someone from preparing advanced directives. Discussing advanced directives with loved ones and completing them early is key as it helps them fulfill the responsibilities they have at the end of their life.

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2 thoughts on “Responsibility at End of Life

  1. I love the point you made about fear being the reason that people fail to talk about death and prepare advance directives. It takes a strong people to be ready to face their own mortality no matter what their age. It would be much easier if someone would just open up with their family about the subject; it only takes one then the rest will express their wishes as well. You also described the “job” of the physician quite accurately, too. He/she has no personal connection to their patients, and that is why the family is such an important aspect of the end of life transition. Unfortunately, doctors do a good job at charging up a medical bill and it does happen, that is why it is so important to have someone looking over you to help you make decisions.

  2. I agree so completely with your first paragraph. If we consider all the cases of families fighting over the fate of a person and how incredibly bitter and awful these fights turn into, on has to be responsible for determining their own end of life decisions. A point I made in my blog about your responsibility to your family was also critical, in that you relinquish them from the guilt they could potentially feel from making a decision, and forever regretting it. The thing I like the most about your post however, is the realization that doctors can get too caught up in the goals they have set and lose track of the reality of the situation.

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