Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Ulimate Kindness

Regular readers will know who I am referring to.....ok, to whom I am referring. Irregular readers, it matters not.

I am not referring to any person, hospital or doctors and for anyone to assume any person, hospital or doctor is only guess work.

Yes, I am walking a fine line here, but after discussions with people involved and my own thoughts and previous knowledge of such matters to back up what I am saying, I feel it needs to be said.

Every so often the matter of euthanasia comes up in the media. I think it is a subject best left alone and the matter left the doctors and hospitals to deal with.

And they do. After a close friend recently died, I am now convinced of this.

The person was very sick. Terminally unwell even. But the person could still talk, joke and walk, albeit unsteadily. The person was delivered to hospital and treated and it was announced the next day that the person would be dead by the following day, and sure enough, the person was.

Left untreated and at home, I am sure the person would have lasted several weeks, if not months.

It was a good outcome for the person, who did not suffer needlessly, for the person's friends who were so terribly troubled, for the person's family who lived a long way away and had a limited time to visit, for the hospital who had to provide a bed, for the Australian taxpayers who were subsidising the care, and ultimately for the doctors who were treating someone without a chance of a good outcome.

The doctors administered lots of pain relief to the person who said that they weren't suffering from and had never complained of any pain.

Quick, clean, a good result for all. Except why is it never acknowledged? Perhaps I should just shut up and let sleeping dogs lie.


  1. Anonymous2:07 pm

    It's never acknowledged by the medical staff, as it is against the law. They will just increase the dosage of morphine to help those suffering on their way to eternal rest. I am all for the procedure and the option of euthenasia should be there for the elderly, frail and terminally ill.

    Come to think of it couldn't we make it compulsory for some of our politicians, clergy etc?

  2. Anonymous4:33 pm

    Most opposition is based on so-called 'moral guidance' - a misrepresentation of the sinister pious religious groups that dominate the public debate with their mucus-filled opinions.

  3. It's a complex little issue, this one, isn't it, Andrew? I mean, legalise it and it's open to abuse. (Having said that, just giving doctors and surgeons a scapel in the first place is open to abuse...I thought we had courts to sort that type of thing out, but obviously they were designed for some other reason.) Then there's the mediaeval eclesiastical thinking that suicide, or assisted death in any fashion, would lead the soul straight to Hell. (Good job society's grown up a bit there, eh? Ahem...I'm saying nowt.) But we all know it goes on, we're all (if only secretly) glad it does, and, at the end of the day, the government wouldn't let animals suffer, so...

    Of course, if it became legal, imagine the extra paperwork.

  4. I am not sure where you could go from here if you did want to take it..somewhere that is.
    As I was driving into work on Sunday they were discussing this very topic on Allegra Non Troppo radio. It is always such a controvercial topic.
    I do know, however, if the person is coherant at the time, talking walking and chatting and is not in any pain and states this as such, then it is their right to refuse analgesia or any medication offered that they do not want to have.

    Legally, the medical profession and nursing profession have different agendas they go by, and the thing is, in the end, it is the nurses who dispense the treatment, the treatment that the medico's write up.
    Mind boggling? Yes?

    Another thing to say here is that, and I just want you to think about it... was the dear in pain upon admission to the facility? If so, they would have been given analgesia for that condition. In order to remain pain free, a patient needs to keep the analgesia at a therapeutic level in the blood stream. After a time, there will be no more pain, or at least alot less of it. So, even if a patient says they are "Pain free", it is often because of those therapeutic blood levels of whatever analgesia they are given. To cease taking a few doses of the medication that is working, would only drop the level of medication in their system, therefore causing them discomfort again. And...if they have some medical condition that progressively gets worse, they will be in so much pain that they will need alot more doseage of the original medication to get back on top of it.
    Well, there is so much more I could write, but I can say this, I, as a nurse, never give disdpense anything I think is contraindicated for the patient. And, even if the person cannot speak to me, I still explain what it is I am giving them and why. You just never know what people can comprehend :)

  5. So it seems we all know it happens, and Cazzie, believe me, I have no problem with any of the treatment this person was given. I am just a bit surprised how blatant it is and how everyone seems to know what happens. I won't answer your comment in detail, but thanks heaps for your very thoughtful input, and others too of course.

    At end of the day, in the fullness of time....ah shut up. We will trust that doctor's who work in this area know best.

  6. "The doctors administered lots of pain relief to the person who said that they weren't suffering from and had never complained of any pain."

    That just... really disturbs me. I do not like the way that sounds one bit unless said doctors administered lots of pain relief on request.

  7. Anonymous10:27 pm

    I would like to think that she specifically 'asked' for her death to be hastened, rather than have this decided for her by some stranger.

    I don't think anyone has the right to make this decision for another person - it is such a personal decision. And I don't like the idea of doctors having too much power in this regard, because they are under pressure to free up beds etc which is a conflict of interest.

    I know if it were me in her position, and I was not feeling any pain, I would hope that I was in hospital to get better, not to end it all. Otherwise, send me home and let me die at a time of my own choosing in a familiar place. I also don't trust doctors completely - they often get things wrong, especially in public hospitals.

    My grandmother died recently whilst in hospital recovering from a fall. She essentially died from starvation though. They removed her feeding tubes and just waited, knowing that with Alzheimers and her injury she could not feed herself. I thought it was terribly cruel, especially considering my grandmother still had some zest for life. It took over a week of no food or water for her body to finally close down. It was awful. I don't know if this kind of thing is just standard procedure when the patient is old?

  8. Yes an issue that instills a sense of passion and grief in many people.

    My family has been affected by the issue as i'm sure many have.

    I think the question of assisted suicide lies in the terminally ill patient and not the fat cats up the top of the ladder who may never know such discomfort.

  9. Anonymous10:04 am

    I think until you have watched a loved one go through the ravages of cancer and see the pain and agony they are in, then you will agree with the medical staff and assisted euthanasia. I saw all this with my sister-in-law (she was only 30yrs). At the time I remember thinking we treat animals far better then this. I truly think there should be the option of an injection similar to putting your loved pet to sleep when the time comes and there is no other option.

  10. This is a minefield!
    I've nursed patients who have coped at home, claiming they are pain free but finally acknowledge they are(and have been for awhile) in some form of pain once they've been admitted to hospital.
    Some slip away once they've "let their guard down" with analgesia and relaxed their strong will, others have become stable and returned home.
    I fully agree with Cazzie- to get a therapeutic level the analgesia is needed to be constantly given.
    I've often thought the pain (that they never admit to) gives them that edge of fear, a driving force to flex a strong will to live, to tighten their grip on life - and once they're admitted to hospital and they're given analgesia, that grip is loosened when the fear abates.
    Removing a feeding tube, however, is completely cruel, without making some arrangement for alternative nourishment.

  11. Jayne, I so agree with everything you say there..and..well, yes, just all of it. The idea of starving people, not even IV or subcutaneous fluids is just wrong! I make my point known when I see it happening.

  12. Anonymous4:36 pm

    I strongly believe in euthanasia if there is no hope of recovery but I also believe the patient or a person of their choosing should make the final decision, not medical staff or even family members. That's why I've given a close friend medical power of attorney, should I be unable to speak for myself. He knows my wishes and I trust him to carry them out. I've also written my wishes down so there can be no misunderstanding.

    It's not something we like to think about but I truly believe I'm doing myself and my loved ones a favour but stating what I want done before it's too late. Vikki

  13. I've been there and been glad for the massive doses of morphine that allowed him to leave without a horrible prolonged struggle. As he was in an induced coma, the family had to make a decision and it was an informed decision going on the specialists' opinions. The post mortem showed his condition was actually much worse than they said in their reports.

  14. I think all of your varied comments have been very educational for me and casual readers. Thanks folks.