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Let us be there in the final moments

June 11, 2007

Raise your hands, those who would like to "die alone" ["So They Don't Die Alone," June 4]. What, no raised hands?

Dying alone is part of most hospitals' negligence. They provide the last hours of very professional medical care yet ignore the most critical part of the death scenario: the compassion of closest relatives/significant others.

From personal experience, this writer knows what it is to visit the emergency room (for the eighth time) and be informed that the patient will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) and that the closest relative/significant other will need to wait in the reception room while the patient is attended to. In this case, the reception room was teeming with teens telling jokes, while the relative/wife was sobbing at the pending threat of death.

Leaving the reception room for the quiet of a hallway, the wife never heard the loudspeaker announcement that she could now enter ICU. When she finally forced her entry to ICU, the on-duty nurse was evaluating computer records (with her back to the patient) and never noticed that the patient was dead.

Unusual? No. Fair? No. Ameliorable? Yes.

Ease the burden of "moving on" by allowing us to be there. Medical systems must recognize the role a family member plays in the last farewell. Give us the option of saying, "Yes, I want to be there. I have been there for 50 years. Why shut me/us out in the last moments?"



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