Awful to contemplate, yet as many a young widow or widower knows, it can happen: an untimely death.
Equally – if not more – traumatic is an accident, injury or unexpected health crisis that leaves a young parent unable to make or direct their own health decisions.
I’m involved with several twitter chats about end of life issues, options and considerations, and many who participate are parents of young children.
Directions for care, should they be unable to speak for themselves, are usually very different from those of their own parents or grandparents.
As well it should be.
Age and stage of health
Where an elderly person with multiple health conditions faces the possibility of a stroke, heart attack, injury or unexpected consequence of a health condition or medical procedure and cannot direct their own care, the answer to:‘ Revive’ or ‘Do Not Revive’ (in the event my heart stops, or I stop breathing) may be ‘Do Not Revive’ and that would likely be the opposite of a parent of young children
What does ‘Recovery’ look like?
In addition to all the obvious reason for wanting to be revived (children need you) there’s usually a far better chance of complete or almost complete recovery, with time and rehab. Although this scenario affects the whole family, at least there’s the more encouraging outcome. Not necessarily so as our bodies wind down.
What does ‘living’ mean to you?
Where the brain and its functions are more severely affected – such as Famous cases, Terry Schiavo and Karen Quinlan, young women who suffered severe brain damage whilst having otherwise healthy bodies – it’s an enormous burden on those tasked with making decisions on your behalf: should you be kept alive, taking advantage of options offered by life-prolonging interventions and machinery, or is that prolonging suffering?
As I encourage everyone to open the ‘end of life’ discussion, I regularly hear: “I could be hit by a bus and that’d render meaningless discussion about my end of life wishes.”
Not so. Discussions about life’s end are never meaningless – albeit often fraught and upsetting. More importantly, consider if you’re hit by a bus and live. What then would be your definition of ‘living’?
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