The Choices We Make


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I have seen how these deaths are different, and they are all the same, in the end: A person breathes and then breathes no more. He enters a stillness like no other. Another breath, and then no more.


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But when the breaths are made by a machine or the blood pressure is sustained by powerful drugs, someone has to make an awful decision. Many aspects of medical and nursing care become unnecessary or intrusive for a dying person.

Will the result of a lab test change the plan? Why take another vitamin? Are you really worried about the cholesterol level at this point? But sometimes a person is already hooked up—intravenous fluids and drugs to raise blood pressure and support for breathing—and the only way to stop the intrusion is to unhook. The advent of machines like defibrillators and ventilators created a new kind of crisis for the dying. Futility is a legal term in health care.

A doctor, a team of people, even a hospital, can invoke futility and refuse to continue treatment that only prolongs suffering. The vocabulary makes everything worse. Such comments create a terrible sense of culpability in a heartbroken spouse or child. But what is really being done is good care.

28 Inspirational Choice Quotes about Life and Decisions

When we allow death to happen, we are not killing people, we are caring for them. We are loving them. We want to put it off as long as possible. We literally have no experience making such a decision; we may do it only once in our lives.

13 Quotes About Making Life Choices

The hardest part is the loss, but a close second is the need to shove your own fears and desires to the side. Doctors may not have any idea they are doing this. But best : Best is subjective. Best is your point of view. Best is what you want. Being able to make a decision like this for another requires an understanding of each other, and time for self-reflection.


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You have to consider the painful, scary, and unwanted fact of separation. You are the proxy for the person in the bed. What she wants is all that counts. You want the person to live. Or you want him to live another week until the rest of the family arrives. You want the gasping holler of pain in your chest to go away.

Can you choose a course of treatment that will allow the person you love most in the world to die? Can you say no on their behalf to something you would choose for yourself?


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Can you say yes on their behalf to an end you would never want? Can you set your own beliefs to the side? This inevitable conflict of interest—you are dying and I want you to live—is why a spouse or close family member often should not be the one making all the decisions. A modern addition to this practice includes having a professional funeral photograph taken and picking out the clothing you want to wear, in styles specially made for corpses.

How can the moon, which is never the same from night to night, be everlasting? And yet it is always the same moon. Death comes even while we are alive. It burned down his storehouse, leaving his family impoverished. His poem that year:. There was a problem adding your email address.

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