My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, and has gone on a rapid downward spiral since then, going from independent living to round-the-clock nursing care in an “assisted living” facility. By last week, he’d lost nearly all speech and bowel functions, and it’s hard to tell if he could actually recognize family members anymore. He’s also got Parkinson’s, and while the nursing staff does their best to keep him in a wheelchair, it seems like every other week he’s off to the emergency room to get stitched up from yet another fall.
Last week, he took another tumble and struck his head – but this time, he wound up with a hematoma in his brain and he’s currently in a coma. The hospital says that he’s unlikely to recover, considering his age and advanced illness.
Luckily, he had the foresight to make out a living will with a DNR order. Problem is, there’s no plug to pull – he’s breathing on his own (with the aid of passive oxygen) and the only I.V. he’s hooked up to is the one providing nutrients (as far as I know…I know they took him off antibiotics yesterday.) Right now, the family’s looking into whether the DNR covers a feeding tube or not.
This whole situation sickens me. If he were a dog or a cat or a horse or a muskrat, he would have been “put down” years ago. After all, it’s the “humane” thing to do.
But, when it comes to human beings, the only options are to (1) keep him alive with I.V.'s until nature takes its course, or (2) remove all sustenance and let him starve to death (if that’s even allowable…remember that lady in Clearwater?) While comatose, he will still open his eyes sometimes, and it’s anyone’s guess just how much physical / mental / emotional pain he’s aware of right now.
So what is it with our society that says a pet dog can get a dose of the pink gooey stuff, but an elderly family member must be left to suffer? This could go on for weeks, even months. Just look at Ronald Reagan. I heard on CNN that Nancy’s nearly destroyed herself emotionally & physically from taking care of him all these years. Wouldn’t it be more compassionate, more dignified, to hook these people up to Dr. Kevorkian’s machine, when there’s CLEARLY no quality of life remaining, and allow their loved ones to get on with the rest of their lives??
It makes no sense. It just makes no sense.