Saturday, March 9, 2013

Let People Know What You Want

About 18 months ago, I went to the funeral of one of our oldest residents in town. Her son spoke about how she wanted to live to be a 100 and that from childhood, his mother had told him that when it came time to die, a priest needed to be with you for it to be a good death. When at 96 his mother had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, he continued to okay extreme measures, per her living will, until the priest could get there. Once he arrived, the son had all interventions stopped. Ultimately, his mother, while not making it to 100, had the death that she would have deemed “good.”

This past week the news media has been filled with stories of the 87 year old woman who collapsed in the dinning area of a senior living center, and for seven minutes, a 911 operator begged a staff member  to either perform CPR or get someone else to do it. The replaying of the 911 tape was horrific to listen to and/or watch. Needless to say it has created quite the media sensation.

The woman’s family was very clear that their mom wanted a “natural death” and would not have wanted CPR or any other measures taken. In fact she choose this particular independent living center knowing the facility did not have medical staff. Long story short, while the family isn’t interested in suing, all sorts of investigations are ongoing. The staff member who made the initial call is now on “voluntary” leave.

The Bayless family sent the Associated Press the following statement, "It was our beloved mother and grandmother's wish to die naturally and without any kind of life prolonging intervention. We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern, but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace."

In both situations, the person ultimately had the type of death they wanted because they had made their wishes known and had taken measures to ensure that it would happen by putting it in writing, in the first case and in the second instance by selecting where they lived.

The Bayless family also stated, "We regret that this private and most personal time has been escalated by the media," and called it “a lesson we can all learn from.” So what is the take away point? 

Clearly people will differ on this. My point would be that, while “putting it in writing”(file a living will) is important, we significantly improve your chances of getting what we want if we have conversations with family and friends about final wishes and act according to our beliefs. 

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