It's a very
difficult time for all involved. Death comes to all of us but it can
be made more difficult by family, friends or the doctor if we have
not prepared for it.
Doctors are morally bound to fight death, but we believe we know
when nothing more can be done and palliative care for comfort is all
that can be offered.
Every physician and nurse has been in that difficult position
where a relative, who might not have seen the patient for years,
wants "everything done" to keep the patient alive. This might be
from love, guilt or religious reasons. The patient should have the
final decision, but most often is incapable of making it.
This is why it is important for you to attend the free Health
Care My Way program at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the La Plata County
Fairgrounds Extension Building. It is sponsored by Mercy Medical
Center, and I highly recommend attending if you haven't made a
Dr. Kip Boyd and Ellen Roberts will be the speakers, and I
guarantee that you will learn the facts as they apply in Colorado.
A "medical durable power of attorney" is the first directive you
should have. This names one or more people to speak to doctors about
medical care decisions for the patient when the patient can't
because of incapacitation. This might become necessary in terminal
conditions, but is also needed after such events as a stroke or
The living will is a good backup to the power of attorney. This
guides others in decision-making for the patient regarding how many
days life-sustaining treatment should be continued. Two doctors must
certify in writing that the patient's condition is terminal and
DNR (do not resuscitate) instructions may be included in the
living will. These tell the nurses and medical personnel not to
attempt CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) when the heart has
stopped. Otherwise these personnel are duty-bound to do
mouth-to-mouth breathing and external heart compressions until a
physician decides that the patient is dead.
It is very important to decide is if you want your organs donated
if you are killed in an accident. Although this is on your driver's
license, you must also let your family know because only one
relative objecting can slow the process to the point that the organs
are no longer useful.
This all might sound gruesome, but how do you want to spend your
final days and hours?
Dr. John N. Withers is a practicing general surgeon in