Aug 9, 2011

Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

I have the organ donor status on my license but I am rethinking my position.
I'm beginning to consider that just because medicine can do something miraculous, may not mean it should.
I think doctors do not consider the huge costs borne by the families of the recipient.
No matter what I think of to explain my thoughts, it comes out harsh: do I mean ‘costs’ as in money, the financial burden? Or the emotional adjustments and physical compromises people make to support the recipient?
I'm going by my personal experience in the last few years. My mother is a quadriplegic due to multiple sclerosis. My dad had congestive heart failure.
He thought, though he had worked hard to keep my mother in good health all these years that he would outlive her; most MS patients (40 years ago) did not survive past their fifties.
Mom & Dad did not have a plan for her care after his death.
The doctors told me two years ago dad was eligible for a defibrillator upgrade – I asked, is that wise?
His kidneys are at 20 percent function, if you double his heart rate, where will the water go?
The answer, of course, is into his lungs to drown him in his own juices.
The cardiologists insisted, no, it would be fine, so the procedure was done to the tune of $50K Medicare bucks.
Because They Could.

Did it prolong his life?
Did it improve his quality of life?
No and No.
Did it cost me thousands of dollars to set things aright for my mother and stabilize her life?
I also left my home & family to take care of the problems because my siblings had already sucked the resources dry and left no less than twenty tons of garbage in the house and property that had to be dealt with before we could attempt to sell the house. It's the only asset left to pay for her care - meanwhile, I bought a house in my town for her to live in and I pay the bills and manage the caregivers on my own time & dime.
Responsible doctors would have forced my dad to face his own mortality.
I didn't say all of the above to challenge the idea that we should help those who could receive organ donations and thus be able to resume a normal life.

I realize how I enabled my dad's obsession with living by any means possible. I loved that beautiful man. But I was the mean person who had to say to him, "this ain't living, Dad," the last time we went to the hospital.
His last doctor at least had the yarbies to tell him he was dying.
I had to ask hard questions, like how long will it take? What should I expect?
I am so grateful to the Hospice Nurses and Volunteers. Those incredible people are rational in a VERY irrational human-care system.
As my dad asked, that last day, "Can't you just put me to sleep? We treat horses better."

Just because we can, doesn't always mean we should.

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