Decisions to provide, or not provide life-saving care to an elderly patient, while not specifically publicly called “Death Panels,” happen far more often than many realize. I’ve had a number of discussions with healthcare professionals who have shared how and when such decisions on who they try to save, and who they choose not to. These decisions are often made by medical groups, but sometimes by others, and seem to become more visible during disasters, emergencies, and other times of social stress. The book Five Days at Memorialhighlighted examples of such decisions made right after Hurricane Katrina. With the recent pandemics, lockdowns, and other political and societal upheavals, decisions on who should be helped may have also been based on their ages, physical conditions, and family situations -- more than we might ever know.
Once you are told that continued life support or life-saving measures will (or will not) be made for your loved one(s), you face your own decisions. Those are to either accept what you’re told and let others decide on whether or not extraordinary measures should be taken, or exercise your right to speak up and push for your loved one’s end-of-life wishes.
I’ve made both types of continuing life support decisions for my own parents, in their end years. My dad wanted to push forward and hold on as long as he could - 120 years was his goal. My mom told me that this wasn’t her desire. As such, I did my best to make sure that doctors understood and accepted what they wanted.
If you know the personal life wishes of those you’re caring for, then when their final days come, you’ll likely have fewer regrets about how you advocated for them.
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