Archive for Decisions – Page 2

Dying in California Has a New Option

A new path to consider...

A new path to consider…

California residents with a terminal illness have a new choice.

Starting on June 9, 2016 the End of Life Option Act (EOLOA)* offers a death with dignity.

No it doesn’t!

It’s suicide sugarcoated with clever phrases. Taking your life is immoral, unethical, and—especially for people of faith—a sin of immense proportions.

Without a doubt, the EOLOA will prompt varied reactions: embraced, vilified, or misunderstood. But it is the law.

Oregon became the first state to legally allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed medication in 1997. I lived in Oregon when Measure 16’s Death with Dignity Act appeared on the 1994 ballot. After considerable prayer and thought, I voted against the measure. It passed with 51% of the vote (and was later affirmed by 60% of the voters).

My “no” vote reflected reluctance about giving doctors so much control. Rationally, I understand. Doctors are trained to objectively examine patients. Yes, human mistakes happen, but a physician’s conclusion informed by tests, technology, and experiences are as good as we can get for a diagnosis. Nonetheless, another side of me didn’t want this decision to prioritize the medical. Death is a natural part of life. It is often better understood emotionally and spiritually.

With the EOLOA, patients are required only to inform physicians of their plans. No one else will know a patient’s intentions unless she or he chooses to share it. Read More →

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Hospice and Pacemakers

Example of first implanted pacemaker...

Example of first implanted pacemaker…

I know almost nothing about pacemakers.

But the “almost” is the key reason to dip the big toe of my thoughts into the ocean of treatments, decisions, consequences, and patient care options related to hospice.

Pacemakers, or Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices (CIEDs), help keep you alive.

They may also prevent you from dying.

The first pacemaker was implanted in 1956. It was the literal dawn of a new heart care era. Sixty years later CIEDs are commonplace, with as many as 100,000 patients annually receiving one. The devices are comparatively small, safe, operate with batteries spanning years, and allow people to:

  • Exercise
  • Blow out more birthday candles
  • Hug grandchildren
  • Create and “conquer” a bucket list
  • Walk on the beach with your beloved . . .

Near the start of my ministry—the 1970s—I’d visit church members needing a pacemaker. Going to a hospital for any surgery was scary! But soon, they’d gone from troubled health to a resurgence of life because of a silent, steady device nestled near their heart. Though an established “procedure” during my earliest hospital visits, it still seemed stunning. In her seventh decade, my mother-in-law’s doctors recommended implanting a CIED. She didn’t hesitate. Now in her 80s, the half-dollar sized device still assists her heart.

So, with my church and family history, I’m a cheerleader for pacemakers.

However . . . Read More →

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The First R: Hospice Revocations*

mainpicI have a slightly embarrassing little habit during revocations*.

In the hospice team meetings patient categories are reviewed, usually in the same order each week. We discuss those who have just died, new admissions, anyone recently transferred from their residence to our inpatient hospice facility (and back again), the focus patients, the . . .

Huh? What’s focus patient?

Hey, we try to focus on every patient! But sometimes one of the staff—a nurse or chaplain—has an unexpected issue with a patient or caregiver that may be helped by feedback from the whole team. For example, a patient may wish to take a weekend trip with their family and will be temporarily out of our service area. We might have a quick “focused” discussion about how to make sure their mini-vacation is possible. That can include contacting another hospice along their route to give assistance if there’s a problem. Other “focus” discussions may involve family conflicts or exploring different medications because of unexpected allergies. There are many one-time-only concerns or situations that become a “focus.”

I remain hyper-attentive in the discussions, from the recent deaths to the occasional focus patient. But, gulp, I drift off a smidgen when the team covers “revocations.” I might glance at email (bad Larry), or ponder the day’s to-do list (bad Larry).

What’s a revocation? Read More →

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