Ethical and Legal Issues of Death and Dying
Old Dominion University
November 30, 2012
Dr. P. Lynch-Epps
This was not easy to put this paper together. Recently my mother- in- law passed away, and her death was devastating to the entire family as well many friends. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and became dependent as she neared the end of life. All anyone of us could do was comfort her with our expression of loves while we tried to comprehend what was taking place. We leaned close, whispered I love you in her ear, and held her hands at all times. Our loved one was dying right before our eyes. As a family we had to adjust to her decline from an active, loving, spirited, wife, mother and grandmother, who loved to dance, to a fragile, helpless, inactive woman who communicated with the family through her touch and her big blue eyes. We gave her our full attention as we made sure she received great medical care during her end of life. As we sit with her, she gave us a sense that she was becoming more comfortable with her passing as if she was trying to soothe our hearts. She passed away and today she is missed so very much. My experience with my mother- in- law has guided my writing. I didn’t share any personal accounts of my experience but I could relate to every part of this paper. What I have shared, is the knowledge I have gained about the importance of being prepared for end of life and making certain that your wishes are carried out.
Historical perspective about death and dying today has gradually changed throughout history. History of death and dying has set forth values, customs and beliefs for many cultures and religion to build on. Throughout history different cultures and religion have continued to form their very own ideas and beliefs about how they want to die. In the late 1800’s most people died in the comfort of their home. Death was common due to living conditions and medical practices. If someone died it was often the result of an infectious disease like “TB or similar illness”. (Barker, R.N., & Foerg) There were no antibiotics or immunization. The expectation of living a long life many years ago after acquiring an infection or a disease was small. Most people would expect no more than comfort care from their family and their physician if they were dying. During the 1900’s to 1950’s science and technology have advanced, improving medical procedures and extending life for those who have acquired infection or disease. The discovery of antibiotics impacted the length of life (Barker, R.N., & Foerg). The care for the dying became more than just comfort care. The direction of caring was also on trying to cure the illness. Taking care of a dying patient extended from the homes into the hospital. Physicians and nurses began to provide more care within the hospital setting.
Issues and challenges affecting the delivery of quality health care given to dying patients are communication, emotional, spiritual beliefs and advance planning. These are also issues that affect the patient, the patient’s family and other support persons. Caring for a patient who is dying is an experience that goes far beyond any knowledge or skill learned in any clinical field. Honest and open communication between patient and caregiver, about the patient preference for care is important for the best possible outcome during the patient’s end of life.
Communication in health care especially for a dying patient can be complex. It’s a process which information and feelings are expressed through verbal and non-verbal interaction. With good communication between the patient, family and healthcare support, it’s easy to assess the patient, understand the patient’s beliefs, and meet the patient’s emotional needs. Good or bad communication in a healthcare setting of any kind can make a patient and family of supporters experience positive or negative, and can make a lasting impression....
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