Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Primum non nocere

I just received a call from my father’s assisted living facility.  He is refusing all normal intervention such as taking his blood pressure, his pulse oximetry, his respiratory rate, etc.  He wants to be left alone.

I am three hours away.  I am debating whether to drive up there but am seriously questioning whether that is really what he would want me to do.  He expressed on our last visit, “I just wish the pain would just go away.”  I cannot blame him. He was not talking about a physical pain.  He is already on morphine.  I knew he was talking about the pain of suffering.  Medical science has nothing to offer him.  He was always a private man so I am not sure what my presence could offer him.  I know he would shoo me away.  

Physicians are taught to be active fighters of disease. They throw medicines at patients like spears targeting specific infections, disease conditions and now even genetic faults.  But what can medical science offer when there is no specific target? 

He is already under hospice care.  Comfort is the cure.  And sometimes, in some people’s minds, comfort means to be left alone.

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