I was just absentmindedly skimming through some patient notes, pushing paperwork for a research study, and there it was. In black and white – an advanced directive. My mind just stopped. I re-read the words as if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but the words still remained. An often unspoken part of the world of medicine. The end of life. I was shocked, to say the least, to see this documented in the notes of a young and well patient. The cogs of my mind started turning. Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. Is a DNACPR the bravest decision that we can make? To truly take life in to our own hands, and make the ultimate choice between life and death
The discussion of DNACPR is never easy. Having a close relative arrest in her thirties, and then be resuscitated, has changed my thought process. Are we playing God? Are we bringing people back to life? My mother and I have undoubtedly had this discussion. With a close family member affected, and my role as a CPR trainer, it’s something which we have freely talked about over the years. Today got me thinking. Often, we associate DNACPR with those who are terminally ill, the old, the frail, the weak hospital patients. We never think about those who are young, or well in themselves.
But she’s my mum. The time may come when she is close to death, and I would never want her to suffer anymore.
Although not 100% fit and well having had two rounds of life-changing surgery, my relatively young mother in her forties has already decided her answer to the ‘Big Question’. She wouldn’t want to be ‘brought back’ as it were. As a medic, and loving daughter, it pains me to think that she would die, and that would be it. But she’s my mum. The time may come when she is close to death, and I would never want her to suffer anymore.
It pains me further to think of someone beating down on her chest, potentially breaking ribs in the attempt to put life back in to her suffering body. DNACPR should not be seen as an easy way out, nor giving up on life. Although so well designed, the human body isn’t perfect. Things can go wrong; our health can take over. Sometimes all that is needed is the courage to say no to suffering through living, and accept death.
I think my mum, like so many others, like the patient today, have made the bravest decision of them all.
Feature photo: gn dim