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End-of-life decisions

June 01, 2008

Re "For the dying, less can be more," Opinion, May 26

This Op-Ed article describes my experience as a nurse in the specialty of palliative care. Medical technology is there to support the dying until a crisis passes, not to sustain a patient with a limited chance of returning to his or her previous level of functioning.

The key line in the article was, "And my family too finally understood that we could say no." It is imperative that patients and families ask questions, and know it is OK to say no.

Diane Kirbis

Toluca Lake

Having an 85-year-old mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and whose health has been in rapid decline since a major stroke six years ago, I read with much interest Carol Mithers' article on the lengthy end-of-life phase of our times.

One major flaw with her analysis -- based like mine on personal experience -- is that it assumes that most seniors in moribund states would like to die without aggressive medical intervention. Some do, and Mithers' aunt is a good example. But many willingly go through absurd and painful procedures to stay on this planet as long as possible. My mother, when presented with the choices for treatment for her malignant tumor, could have opted not to do anything. But she has chosen to fight it, and to embrace life -- whatever is left of it.

I suspect that my mother's quasi-militant attitude against death is found more often than not.



Beverly Hills

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