Recently, one of my former coworkers made the decision to be placed in home hospice after treatment complications from a long illness. Through the course of her illness, she followed all the rules, took care of herself during treatment, kept a positive attitude and fought a very brave battle. Unfortunately she was told all treatment options have been exhausted. Instead of seeking additional medical opinions and miracle cures, she of sound mind, with her family’s support, made the decision to die.
She’s had an outpouring of support from family, friends and coworkers on social media. There’s pictures, memories, social functions and good times mentioned. While some choose to publicly support her, others choose to hold a silent vigil everyday for her in their hearts. I am in disagreement with some of these social media posts because some refer to her “fighting the disease” when she has clearly made a decision to die. It is even more disturbing that a few of these people who are encouraging her to “fight” are health care providers who know the reality of her disease and should know better than telling a dying woman to fight when there is no hope.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned as a registered nurse didn’t come out of a textbook or in a nursing skills lab. It happened in real life at the bedside and more than once. When a someone tells you they want to die, as painful and difficult as it is, we must accept their wishes and let them go. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all part of the grieving process but sometimes we as healthcare providers don’t have time for all parts of the grieving process until later. Sometimes out of respect for the dying we have to jump right on to acceptance and deal with the other stages on our own time.
Where have people’s morals and integrity gone? Where do we draw the line with our egos on what is appropriate to post on social media? What do we hope to gain by telling a dying woman to fight when she’s decided to throw in the towel because there’s no hope for her? Why do these people think they have to be “the one” for this woman? I am one of those who have held a quiet vigil for her everyday in my heart and I’m ok with that. I have happy memories of good times at work with her and lunch dates with good food. I will hold them dear. I accept her wish.