Heaven Over Hospital: 5-Year-Old Julianna Snow Dies on Her Own Terms as originally seen on CNN
When is it ok to just give up?
We therapists are always gung ho cheerleaders. “You can do it! Go, go, GO!” We’re always looking for the slightest positive gain. “Look! You took 1 more step today!” I don’t know how many times a day I say things like that. But sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we work and cheer, the patient’s heart just isn’t in it to try anymore. We’ve all seen it in both young and old. Sometimes it’s just a bout of depression that perhaps a little time with their family or other favorite people, pets or places and some anti-depressants and/or counseling will take care of. Other times it’s something deeper.
I feel like I just know those cases that are a little different. They have made up their minds that they’re just tired of fighting and need to move on. I feel it is important for all medical personnel to listen to that wish of the patient. No, I mean not just nod, smile and play lip service, but really listen. Let them refuse therapy. Help get them comfortable. Do they need to be changed? Repositioned? A glass of water? Does the family or friends there with them need anything? A listening ear? Do what we can and let them make their choice. I feel like the medical professions as a whole are so focused on making people “better” that we lose sight that for some “better” may only be reachable on the other side. And that is a personal decision of each patient.
Sometimes the patient’s wishes get lost between the life saving medical personnel and a family that isn’t ready to let go yet. It pains me when I see those patients on their last leg and they get admitted to my inpatient rehab, because their families just want them to get “better.” It is truly heart wrenching to watch the patient struggle against their own families for permission to stop fighting.
It is very important that you make your own end of life wishes known to your closest family. Discuss what you want and why. Write it down in your own handwriting and/or sign the page and lock it away with your other important documents. That way when the time comes, you can reference that page if you are in your right mind and if not, your family (who should know where to locate the document) will have no doubts of your wishes. Having that has eased several families’ minds at my place.
Refusing treatment to get “better” can be a tough pill to swallow for we cheerleading therapists and loving families. But we must respect the personal decisions of patients.