The Old Fool ponders end of life issues if for no other reason then that he is in the late octogenarian years, has witnessed the last breaths of his beloved spouse, experienced pneumonia, and had a recent 15 minutes of unconsciousness that the doctor said was more than a faint. And I live with a son-in-law who is a hospice chaplain for the IU Health Goshen Home Care and Hospice
Today, my son-in-law was asked by Gilberto Perez, a professor at Goshen College, to be a guest speaker in his class of 34 students on Human Development which has been exploring issues related to development from gestation and birth throughout life to the point of dying.
Eldon opened the class by asking the students to take out a piece of paper for a quiz. The quiz was not for a grade but for their discussion. These are the questions he asked:
1. How would you define the Hospice organization to someone who asked you?
2. Have you ever known anyone who was under Hospice care?
3. Have you ever talked with your family or friends about what your preferences are if you had a terminal illness? Why or why not?
4. What place do your faith and/or your perspective regarding use of global economic resources fit into your end of life choices?
5. If you were told by a doctor that everything had been done for you medically and that most likely you were experiencing a terminal illness of six months or less, would you
a. Ask the doctor to make every medical intervention possible, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy with all its side effects, to keep you alive with tubes, machines and on a ventilator to help you breathe as long as possible? Or
b. Ask the doctor to refer you to hospice where you could leave the hospital, be with your family or friends at home, with pain and suffering as little as possible and with the best quality of life possible for as long as possible?
Eldon shared case studies of 6 patients from ages 36 to 99 for whom he had provided spiritual care and how they approached end of life choices. Most of the students had had little discussion about these issues for themselves. Since the class included students from different cultures including Chinese, Latino, African as well as European, they also discussed how end of life choices are also affected by cultures and ethnic beliefs.
We do well to recognize that end of life is a consequence of birth, common to all humanity of every race, color, geographic area, and religion.