Compassion & Choices

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June 16, 2008 by 8junebugs

Talking about death does not actually cause death. Who knew?

CNN has a report on a new study: Cancer doctors dodge the death talk

There are some people (Hi, Mom!) who may never really hear the words, but that does not give doctors the right to hide behind “maybe” and “what if.” Science can be wrong, but years of studies and statistics can–and should–inform the decisions people make about how to spend the time they have left on this planet.

I don’t know if ChemoDoc has said to Mom, “Statistically, you have four to six months left.” I rather doubt it, because I’m beginning to doubt that she will ever want to hear anything that frank. And there is a compassionate movement among the Cancer Industrial Complex (that’s mean, but holy crap–it takes a village to treat this disease) to work within the patient’s expectations and capacity for understanding.

Which is to say, they will keep you in the dark as long as you want to be there.

You know how the walkway in the aisle of a plane will illuminate during an emergency? How effective is that if you can’t see where you’re headed?

My internal conflict is between my natural inclination to know everything and my belief in everyone’s right to choose how they approach the care and feeding of their own bodies. (The latter gets suspended when smart people do stupid things to their bodies. Drugs and drive-thrus spring to mind, my love for M&M McF1urries notwithstanding.)

I would like to think that my mother’s comfort and care are my chief concern when I look at studies and talk to doctors. I know, however, that I am comforted by knowing what to expect, and that Mom will hear only what she wants to hear. And that’s normal, and not something within my power to change.

My nightmare is feeling angry at her in her last hours because she is surprised to realize her life is over.

So if anyone has ideas about finding the middle ground between the ostrich and the owl, I am all ears.

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