Last week I visited a 90 year old friend of mine who had been in a private Sydney hospital recently. She was able to walk in but one of the first questions she was asked was about resuscitation. I know that this problem is dynamite waiting to blow up but it needs to be dealt with delicately, particularly with older people.
A couple of years ago I was on a panel which was looking at an attempt to write a ‘living will’ document which would be accepted throughout Australia. I think it is the camel which has been described as an animal designed by a committee! This was certainly a description applicable to the proposed ‘living will’. Worse still the committee seemed to have been made up of health staff and, in particular, lawyers. I couldn’t understand it and if we older people can’t work out what they are on about it won’t be used. I gather the idea has now been put to bed.
This is a pity as like other older people who feel we have had a pretty fair run in life I certainly want a peaceful death. Resuscitation can be painful if ribs are broken and time spent in intensive care is very expensive. I’d rather the money was spent on more useful procedures. I have said that if I am conscious and the resuscitator is a handsome young man I might have a different view!
The problem is that people who have made such a will may be admitted to a hospital which is not vigilant with people who have registered such a document. The problem is that medical people feel that they have to save life no matter how poor quality that life may be. If a living will is ignored the concern is that relatives may sue medical staff for going against a patient’s wishes. If they haven’t checked the patient’s records and go against specific requests could this be labelled negligence and court proceedings follow?
I assume that this was behind the way my friend was asked her wishes. Being admitted to hospital is an unpleasant experience at any time so it should be handled carefully. It is better if we can have a living will accepted by all hospitals and our wishes respected. In the meantime the problem seems to have been shoved into the ‘too hard’ basket and we have to take pot luck.
We really need a national voice but the two major associations which purport to represent us are either not run democratically or are run by youngsters who think they know best for us. Ageism rearing its ugly head again.