“Oh God!” she groaned, looking upward with tears flooding her cheeks, which were stretched into the shape of agony. Her chest heaved uncontrollably with grief.
“I am so very sorry,” I whispered again while leaning in and stroking her hand.
This is what death notification often looks like and feels like. We doctors should be masters of delivering some of the worst news that could ever be uttered, the worst news that could ever be heard. Continue reading
QUESTION: How can a little, frail 82 year old lady with advanced dementia have this written in her chart:
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise.
It could be suggested that the “good death” is falsely named in the field of thanatology and in the popular press. It implies an ideal state, one which of course, we cannot have. Never agonize over ideals when the problem is as urgent as death. Perhaps it should be renamed “the good-enough death,” one that is sufficient and satisfactory to both the dying person and the caregiver. It is the best that can be achieved at that time, in that place, by those people, with that problem, in their particular situation. Maya Angelou was right to say, “You did then what you knew how to do, and when you know better, you will do better.” Death and dying are extremely personal. Continue reading
If you are 15 years old and you are walking to school and are hit by a car and you are dying, this is an emergency.
If you are 85 years old and you are out doing your morning walk and are hit by a car and are dying, this is an emergency.
An unexpected dying at any age is an emergency.
In contrast, there are many people dying of advanced chronic and terminal illnesses whose dying should really NOT be an emergency. Yet these poor people come to the Emergency Department for help because they do not know two very important things: Continue reading
Last week, I wrote about the concept of a “good death” and how it can be created. If there is meaning and utility in comparing and contrasting ideas, then this week I should identify what might constitute a “bad death” and suggest ways to avoid this Please prepare yourself, the “yuck” factor is, at times, fairly high in this discussion.
I will begin by begging you to avoid a bad death at all costs. I have seen too many and can assure you that this is not the path that you should allow yourself, or any one to take. You should plan to avoid a bad death with just as much motivation as you plan to create a good death for yourself and those whom you love and care for. Continue reading