Who wants their loved one to suffer? Nobody. When my father was in the intensive care unit at the end of his life, he very lucidly repeated: “When am I going to die?” and “Why can’t I die today?” His health had been declining for a number of years due to congestive heart failure, and in the end-stage of the disease, he was admitted to the hospital. He had no dementia and when he was conscious, he could think and talk clearly.
Yet even though his organs were failing, the doctors were planning to continue dialysis, to move him to another wing of the hospital until he could be then moved to rehab, and they were even talking about amputating his leg in the future. He said again, “I’d like to die today,” at which point I asked the doctors if it was too early to talk about hospice. Their demeanor changed immediately. The doctors were relieved when I asked about hospice. “No,” they said. It was not too early to talk about hospice and they were bound to follow the direction of the patient.
Thank goodness, because I did not want to see my father suffer. We need to start the conversation about changing our end-of-life scenarios, taking into account the concerns of patients, doctors, families, religious institutions and marginalized communities like African Americans, LGBTQ, and those living with disabilities.
That’s why I volunteer with the Compassion & Choices Oak Park Action Team, which is a part of the Illinois End of Life Options Coalition. I invite you to join us at the Main Oak Park Library on Thursday, March 26, at 4 p.m. to learn more about end-of-life options.