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The NSPA Blog

Any Good Thing Taken Too Far…

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Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Teri Dreher, under Palliative Care & Hospice, Something New

PallThere has been a lot of media frenzy recently over the right to die issue gaining popularity around the country and I want to share a medical perspective that perhaps the general public is unaware of.

As an ICU nurse with 38 years clinical experience, the fact is that the vast majority of people who are kept alive on life support machines and undergo end of life procedures that certainly do not enhance their quality of life or longevity do not undergo these tragedies because of physician preferences, but at the patient and family’s insistence. This presents somewhat of an ethical dilemma for healthcare providers when they know that they are doing things that will not ultimately work. Some family members have promised their aging relatives that they will “never give up!” and will insist upon full resuscitative measures on patients with end stage cancer and multi-system failure.

The vast majority of doctors and nurses are kind, compassionate and skilled practitioners who cringe at a family’s inability to let go at the end. I am a strong proponent of Palliative Care and Hospice to ease suffering at the end of life, making the dying process beautiful, pain and symptom free and a loving experience for all who believe in the hereafter.

The thing that disturbs me about the current trend toward “Kevorkianism” is that when narcotics and general anesthetic agents are given at the extremely high doses necessary to accelerate the patient’s demise, nurses and physicians are crossing an invisible line that they committed to when they graduated medical and nursing school: to “First, do no harm”. These medicines slow and stop heartbeats, respiratory effort and blood pressure. They are lethal at high doses.

This issue is a matter of conscience and I just wanted to tell my readers that healthcare providers are people with a faith background and consciences that may tell us to abstain from such activities.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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