Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Love's Demand.

From Thaddeus Pope at Medical Futility Blog: "Hastening Death Can Be Love's Demand."

Here is an abstract of a presentation that I will make at the 2010 Film and History Conference, this November, in Milwaukee.

For several years, I have been writing about the mechanisms for resolving medical futility disputes. One of the primary causes for such disputes is the firm conviction of family members that love demands continued life support for the patient. Love requires not “giving up” on the patient.

More than four decades after the introduction of technology (such as dialysis, ventilators, artificial nutrition & hydration) that can prolong life but not cure or reverse disease, many individuals still hold unrealistically optimistic notions about what medicine can offer chronically critically ill patients. And even those who believe and understand the prognosis often cannot let go.

Hospital clergy, ethics consultants, and social workers spend significant time counseling families, and help them appreciate that consenting to palliative care or hospice is not only consistent with love but even required by love. Three movies beautifully exemplify this re-conceptualization of love: The Event (2003), It’s My Party (1996), and My Life (1993). In each, family members oppose the patient’s decision to forgo therapy or to hasten death. They feel that love demands biological life be prolonged as long as possible. But as the ongoing or inevitable decline becomes increasingly obvious, the family realizes that love demands supporting (and even helping) the patient make a peaceful exit.

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