Should This Woman Be Put Down?

trip 075 This is my mother at Southampton airport on her way to celebrate her 97th birthday in Spain….the which she did…in style. Thank you, Maggie and Adrian.

She hasn’t changed a great deal since this photograph was taken a few weeks ago…….so does she look to you as though she should be put down?

When she had a hip replacement operation at 95 and a knee replacement at 96 her surgeon certainly did not think so…he told her she would be good for another ten years: but a more junior medic clearly did not agree.

Mother asked for a house call recently as she had a heavy chest cold and did not feel up to going to the surgery in the miserable weather to see whether or not it was an infection of some sort.
There was no problem with obtaining the house call – her G.P.’s surgery is well organised – but there certainly was with the result.

Mother and her friends have a mutual assistance agreement.
If they have a doctor calling one of them, another of their number is with the patient… not that they are expecting anything in the nature of a cross between Carry On Doctor and The News of The World – as they say, chance would be a fine thing at their age – but they think that two heads are better than one when remembering a doctor’s recommendations, so when the young female doctor arrived, mother’s friend Adolpha was in attendance.
Which is how I know what happened.

After the usual pleasantries, the doctor examined mother, looked at her notes and prescribed a diuretic which mother refused: there was some civilised discussion about mother’s blood pressure and then the doctor said that while she was there she would take the opportunity to update mother’s notes.
Just a routine matter, nothing to worry about.

‘In the event that you have to be taken to hospital in an emergency, would you like to indicate now if you would prefer not to be resuscitated?’

Silence in the room for a moment….then

‘If you want to kill me you’ll have to shoot me first.’

I first heard of this from Adolpha, full of rage and fury and was struck by something she said.

‘What did this young madam see; an old woman living on her own feeling miserable with a rotten cold and she has the cheek to even think that her life isn’t worth living.
I wouldn’t mind betting if she’d seen her in the villa in Spain, enjoying her holiday, the thought wouldn’t even have ocurred to her!’

I heard it from mother too. Her initial fury subsided, she was sad and downcast that the question had been posed.

‘I suppose she thinks that I’m on my own…you live the other side of the world…there’s no one here…they can do what they like.’

Then, angry again,
‘If they want to be rid of us let us have a dose of morphine to do it ourselves, not to be tortured to death without food or water!’

She and her friends, all people with their wits about them, hold the local general hospital in fear and loathing.

‘But you had both your ops there and nothing could have gone better…’

‘Yes, it’s all right if you go in for something like that….where they know it’s for a limited time and then you’re out into rehab……but you don’t want to be taken there helpless if you’re old…’

A gentleman living down the road from mother was taken ill and came to himself as he was being loaded into an ambulance. He fought his way out of it, terrified that he was being taken to die.

There is clearly something terribly wrong where such a lack of confidence exists and I don’t see much sign of the hospital concerned doing anything to allay the concerns of the elderly in its zone; especially those living alone who don’t have a family member close by.

Mother may not be able to get about as once she did…her eyesight is not what it was…but she enjoys her food, her music…and the sport on television.
If you want a re run of Krakatoa exloding just ring mother when the Hennessy Gold Cup is on the box….

She has cleared all her clutter – to save me doing it after her death; she has just what she needs and wants to stay independent and she very much resents anyone even asking the resuscitation question.

She doesn’t want to be kept alive if the obvious outcome is life as a vegetable…but she wants a doctor to assess the situation on the facts…not to use a consent to non resuscitation form to bump her off just because she is old.