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Sunday, February 7, 2016

End of life treatment: Teddy got ice cream

Barbara Moran’s story:
I dreamed about Teddy Kennedy.  He had died a few days earlier, and his memorial services had blanketed the Boston news.  I was jealous of Kennedy.  He spent the last days at home, smelling the salt of the ocean.  He ate bowls of butter crunch ice cream, watched James Bond movies and shared dinner with friends. 

     I’m sure Kennedy’s death had its share of horror, but that didn’t curb my envy.  Teddy got ice cream; my mom got a sterile sponge soaked in warm ginger ale.  Ted got the ocean; Mom got a gritty rooftop with a windsock.  Ted got his own bed and movies; Mom got the blinking lights of the I.C.U. and the stupid C.A.R.E. channel.  Her TV didn’t even have good reception.

     She did not regain consciousness, and died the next morning. I made peace with her death, but not with her dying.  She had four months of endless and pointless and painful procedures, and final days full of fear and despair.  Why is this medicine’s default death for so many people?

Ken's Advice:  Have the difficult conversation with your oldest relatives.  Start like this:  while eating ice cream with them, tell them what flavor you want in your last meal, tell them about Teddy’s butter crunch, and ask theirs. 

Thanks to science writer http://www.writtenbybarbaramoran.com/”>Barbara Moran for her story, reprinted from today’s New York Times article, “Not Just a Death, a System Failure.”