weekly blog--one for the ages
I am writing this blog from a computer in the Business Center at the senior housing facility where my mother-in-law lives. She just returned from a week-long-stay at Yale-New Haven Hospital. At issue were breathing problems that led to a heart valve replacement diagnosis.
Given her age and overall health condition, the doctor said there would be about a 10% risk to do a non-invasive TAVR procedure. Without surgery, he speculated that she might only have another 12 to 18 months to live. With it, her life may be extended a few more months or possibly even an extra year or two. Either way, the other life-altering health issues she has would not go away, and would only increase over time.
Enter that gray area where healthspan and lifespan converge where no one can definitively know what is the best course of action to take. In a best case scenario, the patient would be able to determine his or her mode of medical treatment or to reject it. However, my mother-in-law has dementia and might not be capable of making that call, which leaves the decision in the hands of her Health Care Proxy and family members who might not agree on what to do next.
Adding to the confusion are religious doctrines that conclude that "Man does not 'own' his body; it belongs to God. From the Jewish perspective, the Jewish patient is no different than any other Jew: he, too, is governed by halacha (guides proper Jewish behavior in all aspects of life) and must relinquish a degree of autonomy.
So what is the best road to take at the last stage of life? I would prefer the safe one offering comfort and dignity. I would not like to find myself traveling down a pot-hole marked path with an unsettling amount of tortuous twists and turns.