August 5, 2010
I was moved to tears after reading this very poignant article written by a woman who watched as “modern medicine” kept her father’s body living long after his mind, and in her opinion, the essence of who he was, had gone. You can read the article for yourself here.
Essentially, the woman’s father (who had been in wonderful health and blissfully independent for most of his life) suddenly suffered a stroke in 2001. The stroke left him partially immobile and unable to think or communicate the way he once could.
That same year dad also required surgery for a hernia he had developed, and the doctor refused to do it unless he has a pacemaker put in. His mind was too riddled by the stroke to make the decision for himself, and his wife (who knew his stance on conservative medical intervention) agreed to the device’s implantation because she felt there was no alternative (which sadly, did exist in the form of an external pacemaker that would have gotten him through surgery).
Long story short, dad was given a pacemaker that would keep his heart beating for the next 7 years while his mind, body and quality of life quickly slipped away as a result of the stroke and dementia.
Is that what he would have wanted? More importantly, is that what YOU would have wanted if faced with the same situation?
While today’s advances in medical technology save the lives of countless people who would have otherwise not survived, one should also think about at what point these technologies should NOT be employed in their personal medical care.
According to Surgery Encyclopedia, over 100,000 pacemakers are implanted per year in the United States. (http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/La-Pa/Pacemakers.html) A hefty 85% of those recipients are over the age of 65. I was unable to find supporting statistics, but one wonders just how many of those 85% were suffering from additional debilitating diseases.
It is possible that a large majority of these patients are suffering from other illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This would mean that there are quite a few people in the U.S. who are unable to care for themselves, no longer recognize loved ones, and can’t communicate but yet still have hearts that will continue to beat on for many years to come.
Although we have wonderful medical technology available, YOU should really be the one who decides at what point you want such interventions used. Or, more importantly, when you do NOT want them used. As you can see, the question you should be asking yourself is a lot more complicated than whether or not you want a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order put in place.
If your goal is to help your loved ones make end-of-life issues on your behalf, you should be a lot more specific. An experienced Sacramento elder law attorney can walk you through this process and help you put together a plan that will clearly communicate your wishes and desires should you become incapacitated one day.
To make that process easier for you, I invite you to come in and meet with me, your local Gold River elder law attorney, for a Peace of Mind Planning Session at no-charge (normally $750). Together we’ll walk through your wishes, desires and important end-of-life considerations to ensure you have a rock-solid plan in place should the unthinkable happen. Simply call 916-241-9661 to reserve your spot. However, these appointments are limited to 10 per month, so call today!