Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sent this to the Globe after reading their front page article on the subject of DNR by a reporter Patricia Wen. The article was about a woman ruminating and not being able to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order for her mother who had reached the end of her life. Wen actually very nicely answered my email. Perhaps they will print it I wrote the following:

The Anguish of DNR: I read with interest an article in the Globe on the Do Not Resuscitate issue by Patricia Wen. My mother, who was a quadriplegic for over twenty years because of a mis-diagnosed benign spinal tumor, suffered much. In addition, because of the tumor she also experienced a massive stroke. She spent those years in a wheelchair basically helpless. Mercifully, she died in a nursing facility at age 82 in a split second when her heart simply gave out. My father, who suffered five years from multiple myeloma, a painful blood cancer, died similarly at age 78. I have personally known disabling illness throughout my own life as well and because of that I have been keenly aware of what my own mandate will be when the time presents itself. I have already made my wishes known that I do not want to be kept alive through tubes, machines or any other Herculean instruments if those instruments will merely sustain my life but not improve it.

Truly, I do not know why this is such a difficult issue. In my opinion, much of this difficulty springs from the fact that we are an overly optimistic and death denying culture. For some reason many feel that even at a geriatric age death still seems wrong and unnatural. As much as I love family and friends, I believe death at a certain time is not wrong but quite naturally right. Death allows others on this earth to live. Without death this planet, already stretched in population to the max, would be an even more intolerable place to inhabit. There will come an end time for all of us. To extend the inevitable through extreme machinations for no purpose but to keep a person's heart and diaphragm going because those around that person are unable to let that person go, I believe, is in and of itself, inhumane. We would do well, I think, to realize when we give a child life we also give him/her death. Death often brings, I believe, a relief from never-ending suffering and its presence is an inescapable fact of life no matter how much we find it difficult to bear.