Emma Duncan The Times January 22 2024
I have no direct experience of end-of-life treatment in America, only the writings of Atul Gawande, a surgeon, on the suffering caused by American doctors' determination to keep people alive. In Britain, doctors have less of an incentive to prolong life, and so take a more humane approach. That is my understanding of the system as a whole and my experience……
My 94-year-old mother-in-law had a stroke at home…..and an ambulance turned up within 15 minutes. She had another stroke on her way to hospital and by the time she got there she was breathing but no longer responsive. A doctor explained to us that while treatment was an option, she had a clot in the artery that feeds the brain stem, so the chance of success if they tried to bring her back was minimal. ….The gist….was to let her die as comfortably as possible. That was the path we took.
The next two and a half days were peaceful, and the care she received exemplary. She never regained consciousness but she was treated with as much respect as if she were a highly valued customer. Doctors and nurses asked her permission before undertaking any procedures…..; they were thoughtful and compassionate in their dealings with me and my daughter. They can’t possibly care about all the dying people and weeping relatives with whom they have contact, but they put on a very good show of it…….I felt lucky to live in a society that made the great and terrible business of death so calm and comfortable.
….I know that the big picture is bad in the healthcare system. But in our little world over the past few days, it has been very good.