Dear Editor:In the last month, the press was ablaze with the criticism of a worker at a senior living facility refusing to give CPR to an elderly patient. The 6 o'clock news feed played that 911 call over and over again.
It was easy for the public to fault the caregiver and the facility but not POLST was involved (Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment). This is a directive that needs to be discussed regarding life-sustaining treatment before and at the end of life - then maybe this lady's final wishes would have been on file and that 911 call might have been unnecessary.
The sad truth is that very few aged patients either inside or outside of a hospital following cardiac arrest survives to live a life without permanent neurological damage. Unfortunately, with no POLST or advance directive in effect, once that 911 call comes in, first responders are compelled to provide all life-sustaining treatments possible.
What the end result usually means is the elderly person will be admitted to critical care only to spend the final days of his or her life connected to machines, maybe with no ability to make his or her wishes known until the end eventually comes, dependent on family members fearing the pain of loss. They often can't make that decision.
Most people, if we ask them, would rather spend their last few weeks of life surrounded by family and friends at home, in their own bed. A quiet room, a little chicken soup, free from thirst and pain.
What is the most humane way to treat you? When you have no voice? What are your wishes at the end of life? What do you want?
Let's talk about it before it's too late. More medicine might not be the answer. I know that. I have an advance directive. Margaret Hittinger Downey
********** Published: March 21, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 49