It is most important to understand that, for the critically ill in the health care environment, the state of the art focus is on keeping the patients alive, and in most cases not letting them die.
In the acute care area of a health care facility, all that can be done for an ill patient will be done. When it is established through diagnostic procedures what the illness or injury is, the question is then what treatments are available, and will the outcome of this pursuit give the patient a better quality of life? Fortunately the state of the art has returned most of us to a state of good health.
But, there is a time that we all reach, when our bodies have begun to fail, when organs function poorly and the homeostasis that kept us fine tuned has lost its balance. If a disease has taken over our normal functions it will have caused great havoc and pain. We now fall into another category of care. There are specialties that learn all they can on how to manage illness, disease and pain.But we are all unique in our responses and therein lies the path.
The stories you hear about euthanasia have been shared by those who have traveled its path with a loved one or friends.They are sad, in that they were unable to find any relief for their pain, both physical and psychological, that has led them to make that decision.
As we never know how it is to walk in another's shoes, so too, we never know how it is to live in another's body, especially one that is in pain. So I would never pass judgment on the right or the wrong decision they have made in seeking relief with euthanasia.
But, it is important to know that for most, even in advanced disease, there are now more choices to live a reasonable quality of life. Keeping up with the changes, on what can be done now in health care, is difficult but important. Pain management is critical and needs to be fine tuned for the individual. There are also interventions to bypass obstructed areas, or procedures with medication to block pain.
In my experience with end stage illness, there has been a fine line traveled by our physicians and staff caring for this type of patient. We have fine tuned pain management, working with many in this area of expertise. Antidepressants are part of this care for most, because depression is most common with the loss of health.
We know that, regardless of choices in these areas, the life of the patient will not be extended, but the goal is to give comfort and to promote optimum quality of life, for as brief as it is.
In the hospice setting, patients and family are aware that the final outcome for their loved one or friend will be their death.They have time to take care of all their final wishes and say their goodbyes.Some return to their homes, and are followed by home health care.
But, we do not believe in euthanasia, never is it the goal to TAKE a patient's life, but to let them pass into that state, if their time has come, with all the love and support that can be given.
It is and will always be the most difficult bridge that we cross. But we all do. We are but a breath and a heartbeat away.