All morning Mom drives beyond the limit of the law and finds me heavily sedated following my exhausting night at the hospital. I’m her 22-year old adult child. She learned of my serious condition by chance. The medical staff was not required to contact her. We exchange one brief and insignificant sentence that will haunt her the rest of her days. They instruct Mom to call the family to my bedside. While she is out of my room, intensive care doctors inject an experimental drug into my IV. Do they ask if I was OK with this? No. Do they ask my mother? No. It may increase my chance of survival by 25% they tell her later. Or it may cause me to bleed out thereby giving me 0% chance.
They also insert an intubation tube that prevents me from speaking. Did they forget to ask if I wanted to speak to my mother one more time? Were they simply following efficient medical protocol? Where does compassion fit into their definition of care? My sedation is increased to the full sleep from which I won’t awaken. All this happens in the fifteen minutes Mom is making calls.
I survive the first cardiac arrest at 10:15 p.m. The staff cleans me up and allows the family back into my room. They file in, draped in pale green gowns and masks, never taking their eyes off my face. Through the night, they take turns holding my hand, telling me stories, expressing their love and resting in the family room nearby. This is where my mother is when the second cardiac arrest begins at 3:20 a.m., even more earnestly than the first.
Being a night owl, I generally love this much activity at this hour. But now I’m bleeding out from the serious and violent attention of seven medical professionals thumping me with everything they’ve got. My trembling mother, on the verge of collapsing, is brought to my door and now the doctors finally ask her permission. Permission to cease CPR and permission to let me go.
I would love to believe in medical ethics if it weren't for the imbalance found at the intersection of compassion and corporate responsibility.
Has a medical situation caused confusion, uncertainty, anger or perhaps guilt for you? What imbalances have you experienced in end-of-life events? Was there ever a time you wished to be asked permission or wished you hadn't been asked? Please share your thoughts the comment section below.
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