More than a year ago, I made the decision to stop my Dad's medical treatments. He was 89 years old, with 3 types of metastatic cancer. He was receiving multiple transfusions, in the hospital more than out. He was in and out of delerium. Multiple minfections, any one of which would have killed him if left untreated. When he could express himself, he stated he did not want further intervention.
I spoke with his doctors, asking whether his treatments were extending life, or reducing suffering, or benefiting him. His oncologist, urologist, and family medicine doctor all stated that these treatments did not have benefit, and in fact might me making him more ill. I should add that I am a doctor as well, and I already knew this. The only rationale that any of them could give was, "But we have to do SOMETHING! Hospice is so extreme!".
But we did decide to go with hospice, at my suggestion. Hospice requirements are for life expectancy of less than 6 months. No medications to extend life, no antibiotics, no blood tests, no hospital visits. Comfort care is emphasized, pain control, avoidance of interventions that serve only to prolong life.
The interesting effect, here, was that he rebounded. The chemotherapy was not only suppressing the cancers, it was suppressing his bone marrow. When the chemotherapy was stopped, apparently he started making blood cells again, his clotting mechanism started working again so he stopped bleeding all of the time, his white blood cells started working again so he stopped getting infections. Being in a very pleasant, cheerful, attentive, clean nursing home, he was less lonely, started eating more, gained weight, and started walking again. For the next 9 months or so, he improved. Then the cancers started to take their toll, and he declined again. Now, this 6ft 2 robust man is about 100 pounds, he looks like a concentration camp victim, with sunken eyes, skin that tears with a bare touch, too weak to get out of bed, starting to develop bed sores.
Then they took him off hospice, because he failed to die fast enough. Interesting timing. Last week he developed an infection, high fever, delerium, low oxygen levels. I am sure death was imminent. They called and asked if he could be given oxygen, I said yes, that is for comfort. What they didn't tell me is that he was given an antibiotic - not allowed with the hospice agreement, but he is no longer on hospice.
So the infection improved, my Dad woke up, the fever passed. They tested his blood - again not allowed on hospice, and again, he's no longer on hospice. No surprise, he's profoundly anemic, and now back to the hospital for a transfusion. He's an agreeable guy, and if the people around him tell him he'll feel better, he'll go along with whatever they say. He's fairly easily manipulated. Since he's alert and oriented to the situation, there is nothing I can do.
I've accepted this is something I can't do anything about. In the "culture of life", suffering is considered good. Indignity is considered good. There is no question that he would have died last week without intervention, and no question that his life now is that of 100% dependency, 100% debility, more indignity, more hospital intervention, depression, and misery.
Why? I suspect it's partly greed - those interventions are expensive. The hospice program is much less costly for government and insurance companies. The people involved are also infused with Christian ethics, never say "enough is enough". For whatever reason, god want's us to go against what god is doing. In other words, god wants us to try to delay the death that god has planned. That's god's will, for us to do that.
Not sure what there is to discuss here. I suspect that most nontheists are on the same page here. Also, my hands are tied here, unless / until he is delerious again. Then I'll feel guilty, but since it's mup to me then, I'll tell them not to intervene. When he was healthier, and for all of his life, that is what he said he wanted.