America is in denial, denial about death. I’m an ICU nurse, and I’ve seen a lot of death. . People die every day in ICUs all over the world, but as a society we want to save everyone, regardless of the cost or the age of the patient.
I’m frequently saddened that we put quantity of life before quality. Patients who are in their 90s, with no chance of recovery are often kept alive for weeks because of the selfish wishes of their families; it’s simply not fair. We give them more drips, catheters, medications and tubes, to prolong their agony.
When our pets are gravely ill, we “put them to sleep,” to stop their suffering, because it’s the humane thing to do. Now I’m not an advocate of assisted suicide by any means, but I think prolonging life is pure torture for many of these patients. It’s cruel punishment.
As a society, we need to be more educated on the importance of quality of life. When it’s your time to go, it needs to be respected by your family. There are so many selfish family members that refuse to allow patients to be a DNR (do not resuscitate), which would mean that, should the patient code, (stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest), that medical professionals will not attempt to save them.
Now I realize life is precious, and I also know that it’s extremely difficult for family members to let go. There is a process they must go through to accept their loved one’s passing. Be we must understand that it’s the circle of life, and it’s one we must accept.
I can also speak first-hand on this issue. My Mother suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage a few years ago. There was no warning; she was a healthy 69-year old. It was very difficult for my family, but once I saw her and viewed her chart, I knew there was no saving her. I spoke to my husband, who is also an ICU nurse, and he agreed that we needed to do the right thing and take her off the vent.
After discussing her condition with the rest of my family, we all made the decision to let her go. Within the hour, she was taken off the vent, and she died peacefully, naturally and with dignity a couple of hours later. She would not have wanted to be “a vegetable,” kept alive for the benefit of others who were too selfish to let her go.
I have a friend who recently lost her Grandmother. She had terminal cancer. She was horrified that her mother and aunt could not accept the fact that their mother was dying. The hospice nurse had made it clear to them that she was dying and told them several times not to force her to eat or drink. But even hours before her death they were force feeding her baked potatoes and other foods. The food was running out of the poor woman’s mouth, yet they continued to torture her. In my opinion, this is criminal.
As an ICU nurse, my best advice for families who are facing the death of a family member is to please consider what you are doing to your dying family member. I know it’s extremely difficult to watch a loved one die and feel as though your are not doing anything to stop it. But, the reality is that death is just as natural and normal as birth.
It’s a process that every human must go through. Remember the good times and let your loved one go. You owe them the right to die in peace. You’re not killing them by allowing then to die naturally.
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