I was very heartened to read yesterday’s Daily Telegraph’s piece, Emergency staff to be told if you want to live or die.
Backed by health minister Simon Burns, the Government is now keen for electronic records to be shared by paramedics and out-of-hours GPs, which will give seriously ill people the choice of whether they wish to receive life-saving treatment, or be allowed to die without further medical intervention.
According to the article, 8.8 million people currently have electronic records, but all of us registered as NHS patients in England will now be offered the opportunity to sign up for this facility.
This means that we can state our end-of-life wishes, and, as long as everything is in order, we will not be resuscitated if that’s what we want.
It is high time we became realistic about the consequence of being kept alive at any cost. Currently, I have three friends with elderly relatives, all of whom have little or no quality of life. Yet, each time they tip towards decline, they’re given the full medical treatment to bring them back.
One friend became very upset when she told me how her mother, in the days she was able to communicate, made it clear that she did not want life-extending treatment. Unfortunately, she never made a living will, or told her doctor. ‘It’s too late for my mother’s wishes to be respected,’ her daughter told me. ‘She’s now got advanced dementia. She is unable to recognise me, and is slowly rotting away. It’s a dreadful way to see your mother die. You wouldn’t keep a dog alive like this.’
Listening to my friend talk about her mother’s protracted and degrading dying process makes me determined that this is not going to happen to me.
Of course, I hope to live into old age with my health intact. But one never knows when debilitating or fatal illness will strike. So I will certainly be signing up for my electronic records, and making my end-of-life care preference clear. No resuscitation, thanks.