After battling multiple sclerosis for 12 years, my wife was in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. The care had been good and everyone was attentive. The physician in charge of her care pulled me aside one day and said, “Glenn, you know, there comes a time for all of us and your wife has suffered with this disease for a long time. Don’t you think it’s time we let her go on?” He then added, “We can let her go on or we can try to extend her life as long as possible.”
“Doc,” I replied, “I want her to live as long as possible.”
“Good enough,” he said, “That’s what we will try to do.”
She lived about two weeks or so after that conversation. During those two weeks she spent quality time with family, her sons and I. She had visitors who had conversations with her. Before her death she was able to speak clearly to me and state her thoughts and wishes. I remember the day we had to take her back to the nursing home that she ate one of the better meals that she had eaten in several weeks. Those two weeks was time that I know she would not have wanted to have given up, nor would I.
I have found it interesting, looking back now, that a couple of the nurses at the nursing home stated to me the day that we got her back to the nursing home, “Glenn, we are so sorry.” It was like they were saying they were sorry about my wife’s death and looking back, that’s exactly what they were talking about. It was like the hospital had said to the nursing home staff, “There is nothing more to be done and it’s time to let her die.” My question all along has been: Did they let her die? Or did they push or move her death along a little faster? It seemed after her meal that she enjoyed, that she suddenly started going downhill fast, became quieter, groggy and eventually lulled into a sleep in which she never woke up and passed away.
A friend of mine had a stroke recently. A lady who I know who used to work in the hospital said, “After seven days, Medicare will give the hospital an ultimatum. Either she is going to get better or they will tell the hospital to unhook her and let her die.” She had a living will and so the hospital staff used the living will to state, “This is what she wants.”
I’ve taken note lately that every place I go is pushing a living will document at me. I’m going to have one, but I’ll write it. I don’t need an insurance provider or Medicare writing my living will for me. Whose advantage is the living will for if they have written the document and I have merely signed it? It’s more for their bottom line.
Your life is worth more than the bottom line. We all will likely be out of control at the end of life. Don’t make it so easy for those who don’t even know you to take your life away from you.
Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His syndicated column is read in all 50 states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com Learn more at www.glennmollette.com