Wow. John, please teach me to link like any self-respecting blogger, because I really want to link to a story in the Mail on Sunday, posted at Majikthise by The J Train while Amanda is helping out in NOLA. It may or may nont be true, but like The J Train, I don’t know why it wouldn’t have happened, despite the grisliness and far-fetchedness. After all, what’s not grisly and far-fetched about the situation anyway?
This story is about doctors in New Orleans and environs having to make the decision whether or not to give patients morphine overdoses and so allow them to end their lives in dignity, as opposed to possibly being victims of looting, squalor and agony-filled desperation while waiting for their lives to end.
This is a story close to my own heart.
My mother had a rocky but fast battle with cancer. She lost. For the last week or so she was in a coma, and Dad and Scott and I sat around reading books and…waiting. In a peaceful, well-run hospital. No threat of terror here (Other than the fear of death, which is pretty universal, really)
But the big scariness was pretty big and scary. Doctors could give us no prognosis, because there was nothing they could say or do. There was no information. The cancer was in her lungs, in her brain. No one knew how long it would take to kill her. We were a family in the grips of intense frustration, as well as shock. And we have never communicated our feelings very well to one another, so we were also a group of people isolated, but held together through the conventional ties of family.
If we’d thought to have some hospice care workers come in, we might have been able to better prepare for the inevitable. Doctors, as they could not ethically give us anythign to hope for, were schtum. Hospice help probably wouldn’t have been. Note to self: The next time someone I love dies, I’m getting all the fucking support they’ll give me.
As it was, my mother died in the early afternoon. I got to the hospital in time to see my brother come off the payphone. “She’s gone,” he said.
In the visitors’ room beside the room my mother died in, the doctor, an internist, spent some time with us. He asked us something. I can’t remember what, but it was something like, “Do you have any questions?”
Um, no. My mother just died there. What was I supposed to ask you? Your play-by-play on her palliative care? What happens after we die? Why you only serve cherry jello here?
I am so sorry for those victims of Katrina that were killed by doctors seeking to give them dignity in death.
I am much more sorry for those doctors, who, looking the Hippocratic Oath in the eye, saw the situation, had no answers, and had to create their own answers.
God bless you.