Denial still seems to be the order of the day when it comes getting our end-of-life affairs sorted out..
This story has a good outcome, because the person dying had put in place the necessary documents to assist those who were required to speak on his behalf.
Sophie Kesteven writes for The Pineapple Project, (ABC, Friday, 12 Feb 2021). In this post: Advance care directives and how to plan for the end of your life, Kesteven relates the story of Jacinta, a 24 year old relative tasked with making decisions about her uncles medical treatment in the absence of anyone else on hand at the time. Here’s a short extract about making a life-or-death decision:
Blood tests showed that Jacinta’s great uncle had a urinary tract infection, which turned into a kidney infection, and, eventually, his organs started shutting down.
Even if treatment was successful, his quality of life would have been impaired.
“The doctor said ‘You need to make this decision within the next half an hour, because if we don’t start treatment within the next half an hour, it’s not going to have any effect’,” Jacinta recalled.
“First of all, I wanted to just walk away and just be like, ‘No, someone else do this.’ And then I was like, ‘No. I need to do this.'”
Poor phone reception made her parents unreachable, so she was left to make a massive decision on her own, and fast.
Although it was incredibly difficult, she referred to her great uncle’s Advance Health Care Directive — a legal document outlining an individual’s medical wishes if they cannot communicate on their own behalf.
“I came to the decision with two minutes to spare that they shouldn’t commence treatment,” she said.
This story refers to the work of intensive care specialist, Dr Peter Saul, who notes that less than 15% of the population has Advance Health Care Directive documents in place.
And later ..
Even though her relative had an Advance Health Directive in place, Jacinta said she still felt like she was in a grey area because there was a chance he could recover.
Ultimately, though it only formed part of a much more difficult process.
“The Advance Health Directive was really useful for me in that I knew where he stood on kind of black and white health issues,” she said.
“I did use that to end up guiding my decision that most likely if the treatment did work, only worked partially, or kind of didn’t work very well that he would end up with the quality of life that he wouldn’t have been happy with. And that’s ultimately how I ended up coming to that decision.”
Read the story here: Advance care planning can really help