Tuesday, September 10, 2013

End of Life Issues

How do we cope with end of life issues? At what point can or should treatment for the terminally ill be stopped? Does the person facing death have the right to make this decision? Or should it be left up to medical personnel? A columnist for the Peace Weekly takes up these questions, which have been often debated, and now the government has begun to take an interest, with a special bill being worked on by the government's bioethics committee which would allow patients facing death  to determine whether to receive treatment that would prolong their lives or refuse the treatments requiring the use of drugs and medical equipment.
End of life decisions are those when death is imminent, with no hope of recovery. The decisions often come down to a simple question: Do we prolong the suffering by keeping the terminally ill alive by medical treatments, or do we allow patients to die naturally by refusing the treatments? Though these options, as they are commonly expressed, makes the choice rather obvious, it is in reality surrounded by all kinds of difficulties, explains the columnist.

Those who face death not infrequently do so without knowing that the end is near, entering intensive care units with the hope of getting well, but often die without the family being present.
Studies have  shown that when a sick person has only a few days to live, the family finds it difficult to mention this to the sick person because of the shock it would be. However, the reasons for making  the situation known to the sick person are many. This natural and obvious decision becomes--in the actual situation when we are in the presence of the sick person--very difficult to carry out.
Making the end of life decision can be made in advance, however, and with the knowledge of the whole family, but this requires talking about death, which some find difficult. This uncomfortableness needs to be overcome, the columnist urges. Since we all are going to die, is it not better, he asks, to prepare for the arrival of death than to be surprised by it, or be dragged to it protesting the loss of life? When we are upset everything tends to be done poorly. When we talk about death, especially before the end is near, there is an intimacy that arises that can calm the fears that come with ignoring what we all must face. 
Preparation for death should be an ongoing preoccupation of a Christian, the columnist reminds us, and the taboo that many feel in talking about death needs to be changed. We need to see death as a friend and the gateway to our maker. 

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