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Friday, August 3, 2007

I will remain forever grateful: Euthanasia and morphine

Dr. Darshak Sanghavi’s story

Afflicted with a rare, progressive scarring disease of the lungs, my father suddenly deteriorated one day and was hospitalized on a ventilator. Over weeks, my family endured repeated setbacks, as his lungs filled with fluid, his kidneys failed, and his heart weakened. His blood became acidic. Soon, fungus infected his bloodstream. His body ballooned, as if inflated with fluid. Doctors continuously infused intravenous narcotics, to deeply sedate him, and paralyzing agents to prevent any reflexive movements.

For my father, death would mean rest, or "shanti," in the Hindu-Jain tradition. For many people, death is not necessarily evil.

We met with my father’s doctors and agreed on a plan. On the day we decided to let my father die, our family filed into his room. Some prayers were said. The monitors were silenced. The doctors shut off the infusion of paralytic drugs, and injected a large dose of narcotics. The paralysis would still last for several hours. With a knowing nod to us, attending physician then left the room and my father’s nurse lingered behind.

She met my eyes and then my sister’s. Both physicians, we nodded back knowingly. Then the nurse reached over to the ventilator, and in an act of compassion for which I will remain forever grateful, she quietly turned the machine off.

Advice to families with gravely ill loved ones: Consider hospice care.

Read the source article by Dr. Darshak Sanghavi in the July 3 Boston Globe.

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