If a loved one was dying, would you want to know?

My aunt’s currently in the process of dying from cancer. I’ve known for a long time that she was very sick, but until last month, it seemed like she had a fair chance of beating it. Now it turns out that a year ago, she and my uncle were told that she had no more than six months to live, even with treatment. All the chemo she’s been receiving has been palliative in nature. They never told anyone.

I’m really bitter about this. Not just from knowing that I’m going to lose her, but also knowing there was never any real hope all along. This family’s always had issues with lying about death and death-related topics. On the other hand, maybe they thought they were doing everyone a favor by hiding the truth.

So…what’s the majority opinion? If someone close to you was going to die, would you rather know the nitty-gritty details? Or would you prefer to remain in blissful ignorance until near the end?

Of course I would want to know, but I definitely do not have a right to know, never mind all the details.

Yeah, of course I want to know, but why would I have a right to other people’s medical information?

As the others have said, I’d want to know, but ultimately it’s the decision of the person who is dying.

We recently had two deaths, one was expected (cancer) and one was unexpected (massive heart attack). The expected death was a lot easier to deal with as everyone had the opportunity to say their goodbyes in their own ways.

I would want to know but I respect the right of a sick and/or dying person to keep that private.

For one thing, this information changes the way other people act around you and you may find yourself having to comfort other people about YOUR imminent death or just have a lot of dreary times while they are all sad around you and you may not want to spend your time that way.

You may find that all people want to talk to you about is your illness or how you are feeling when you would rather not.

I picked the first option, but I was thinking in terms of not wanting to be lied to as opposed to needing to know all the gory details. No, I don’t think I’m entitled to know everything, but I also wouldn’t stick my fingers in my ears if you wanted to share the less-than-sunny info. The way I read the options, none exactly fit my thinking, so there ya go.

Bottom line - I’ll listen to all you have to say, I won’t pry, I’ll do the best I can for you.

Depends on who. I wouldn’t want my child or my parent to keep it a secret, but I wouldn’t expect to be told my aunt’s or my cousin’s prognosis.

I would hope that I wouldn’t need to know in order to be a good friend to the person dying and I have enough experience of people dying; relatives, a child and several friends, that I don’t assume any more that everyone is around forever. I have had my own scare with cancer that proved to be nothing and had a close friend who kind of snuck off to die quietly when he had a disfiguring fatal cancer. I was briefly angry about the way he chose to isolate himself but in retrospect that is the kind of guy he was.

So no I don’t think I have any rights and I’m not sure that any preferences I have are worthy of any regard.

But that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Had I known this was certain to be her final year, I would’ve made an effort to visit more often. :frowning:

This is what happened with my Mom. Mom and Dad knew she was seriously ill at least 2 years before she told us that Hospice had been called for her. The result was major financial loses for us in moving back home and basically the lost of 10 years of my life in caring for my Dad after she passed. This is not so much a complaint about my loss as it is a statement that if we had known sooner I could have dealt with it SO much better and found an OK job near home.

Maybe your aunt just wants her final months to be as ‘normal’ as possible, without the constant reminders of her condition.

The important thing is that you know now, so if there’s anything you really want to tell her, now is the time to do it. If you can’t physically get to her, call her, write an email or send a letter. You’ll be glad you did.

I know it’s difficult right now, you’ve received a hell of a shock and your reaction of bitterness is understandable.

You’ve known for years that she’s very ill, and have no doubt visited her several times. Why is it so important for you to visit her now, when she is least able to enjoy your visits? When she might very well want to focus her impending death? When she might even be very busy with Final Details?

You can’t really conceal this kind of information. A terminal illness is like a pregnancy; the outcome will reveal what’s been going on. All you can do is choose the best time to tell people.

Exactly this. I’m a HUGE hypocrite on this issue, because I would want to know every detail if it were a loved one of mine. But I’d probably tell no one if I were seriously or even terminally ill until near the end, because I am private about my own stuff. shrug

I couldn’t say it any better, so I didn’t respond to the poll, as nothing fit my opinion.

The poll is asking a different question that the thread title. Woukd I want to know? Yes. Do I have a right to know? Nope.

She knows that, and decided that whatever joy those visits might have brought was less than the pain making this news public would have caused. You’re mad at her because she chose to make her dying easier on her rather than easier on you. I think she has that right.

I think it depends on who the loved one is. Someone who has been part of your immediate family (parent, sibling, spouse, child) that you’re not estranged from - I’d want to know at least the important details, e.g. whether there’s a chance for cure or remission, and if not, what their remaining life expectancy is. (My stepmom kept me and my sibs very much in the loop this fall while my dad was dying. That meant a lot.) I’d say I have a moral right to that information, even if I don’t have a legal right.

‘Loved ones’ more distantly related: not so much. My 86 year old aunt has lymphoma, but she’s been increasingly distant from my dad and my sibs and me over the past few years, even before this came along. I miss her, and I wish I knew more about what was going on with her (not just her health, but in general), but if she doesn’t want to share, then that’s my tough luck.

While recognizing that I have no actual right to know if it is not someone in my immediate family, I definitely would want to know.


My Dad knew he was terminal but he also knew I wouldn’t lie to my mother if asked a direct question and there was NO WAY he wanted her to know (long and complicated). As a result, when he died, as far as I knew it was in perfect health. Found out different real shortly afterwards; before the funeral was done. At first I was really hurt by it but after a while I came to realize that he was right and for us it was best not knowing.

Now Muvver - my MIL - all of us knew she was not going to make it and she didn’t. She was in advanced dementia from hardening of the arteries of the brain. We had seen so much of her die a piece at a time that by the time the last breath was due, it was almost as much a release for us as it was her; maybe more so. But knowing we were able to be there and with her and that was nice.

So back to where I started; depends.