Death with Dignity

Reading about the death, and the self-written obituary of Jane Lotter has stirred up some old thoughts.

It's been more than 2 years since my Grandpa died.

And just the other day, I find out yet another piece of information about the last months of his life that I had no idea about. Yet another bit of information that makes my blood boil.

My Grandpa did not deserve such a horrible, painful death. Nobody does. No living thing does.

Yet, why do some doctors and .. well, people in general.. why do they allow it? I really wish that these particular medical professionals, including those that were involved in the care of my Grandpa.. I wish they could all be barred from clinical patient care until they completely understand what medicine, healing and empathy is about. They are an embarrassment to the entire medical profession.

My Grandpa had an unfortunate accident at home, causing him to slip and bump his head. Because he was on warfarin to thin his blood, he bled a lot more than other people. This was another area of contention in my books... placing him on warfarin. Why would you give an 80+ year old with Parkinson's rat poison? His risk of falling and ending up in hospital exactly the way he did was much higher than someone who wasn't restricted in movement and had a lesser falls risk. Again, I told my mom I don't ever want to find out which idiot placed him on it, or which family member recommended the said idiot. It would be an ugly scene and an unnecessary confrontation, now that the harm's been done.

So I get a call from my parents one day, casually mentioning that my Grandpa was in hospital. Eventually, after a lot of angst at not being told sooner, I finally learnt that he bled into his brain (I'm not sure if it was a subdural or intra-cranial hemorrhage with what I was told) and needed emergency decompression and evacuation of the blood.

Apparently, that went well and he returned to the ward. And then he got a respiratory tract infection. And ended up in ICU. For a month. And then they killed him.

Oh. Don't get me wrong. They tried their best to save him. They kept him from the brink of death three times, but lost the fourth round. They thought they were doing him a favor. They thought they were doing family a favor. They thought they were trying to save him.


WHY on earth would you even CONSIDER any invasive procedure for anyone in my Grandpa's condition? They stuck a scope of some sort.. A sigmoidoscope, or a colonoscope.. I'm not sure. My parents couldn't tell me enough details for me to figure it out. They stuck a scope in him because they found blood in his stools. THE GUY HAS BEEN NON-RESPONSIVE, AND ON A VENTILATOR IN ICU FOR WEEKS. Which moron decided they had to scope him, and which moron of a family member signed the consent form?!

My mom said they started noticing dark blood trickling out from his orifices shortly after he returned from his scope. He was in multi-organ failure by then, and his kidneys weren't holding up. Again, some moron (or the same one, I'll never know) decided my Grandpa needed dialysis at this stage.


My Grandpa did not deserve this. I suppose that's what brought him all this unneeded pain and suffering in the first place.. He was so well-respected in his community and social circles, with his numerous accolades and accomplishments that included founding a university, having an orchid he developed be designated as a national coin design and a multitude of philanthropic activities, everyone wanted the best for him. Unfortunately, what he got was "the best" for everyone else but him.

It was "the best" for everyone else around to feel like they were doing all they could to "save" him. It was "the best" for him to receive as many treatments as possible as last ditch efforts. It was "the best" for some family members to feel like they were pulling their weight around by getting multiple doctors involved, resulting in a fuckload of miscommunication and management conflicts.

I wish I could have known about all this sooner. I wish I could have been there to stop this madness. My Grandpa died in his own house shortly after being told not to worry, he is home and if things are too unbearable, he shouldn't feel obliged to battle on for his family's sake. Coincidence?

It's been more than 2 years since my Grandpa died. I wish I could stop feeling guilty that I wasn't there to stop his torture. I wish I could stop feeling so angry at those involved with the decisions made with his care during those last awful months of his otherwise humble, dignified life.

As a doctor, what he went through sickens me. I'm already losing faith in the system, and this is another blow. Doctors are supposed to alleviate suffering and pain. That's all. We're not supposed to be miracle workers. Think of us as the mechanics that fix your body. If the body's too damaged, there's only so much that can be done and that usually comes at a price in the form of pain, or death. As a granddaughter, I feel the worst sort of pain, that dull ache over your heart, constricting your chest and making it hard to breathe. Grief and regret. All mixed together.

For anyone that stumbles upon this post of mine, I wish you the courage and empathy to face death in all forms and make decisions that are truly going to be the best for the one death is coming for. I wish you the wisdom to identify your own selfish desires and lock them away, to realize that whilst you might be subconsciously worried or scared of what the future will be like with a loved one missing from it, that in the end, it is not about you right now. It is about them. The ones with the illness or the pain. You need to remember that, and never ever put them through any more torture than what they are already experiencing. For their sake, and yours.

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