Sunday, April 10, 2005

Why was Mae's granddaughter & hospice accused of starving and dehydrating her?

I am trying to clarify the situation with Mae Magouirk, the woman whose heart problem resulted in her being put in hospice care by her granddaughter rather than being treated aggressively. She is now out of hospice and under aggressive medical care. I am happy for that. But I am not happy about the murky understanding of what are legitimate decisions that patients and caregivers can make when an elderly person has had a catastrophic medical event.

Here is what I wrote on blogsforterri.com:

What I want to know, and will keep insisting upon knowing in each of these cases until I get a straight, consistent answer from you BlogsForTerri folks WHO I HAVE SUPPORTED CONSTANTLY FOR THE PAST TWO MONTHS, is "Why is food and liquids by mouth not an appropriate treatment at the end of life?"

I realize that part of the decision hangs on whether a person is at the "end of life" or not. We do not have information on Mae's own wishes. We do know that her living will asked that she be given food and hydration unless she were in a vegetative or comatose state.

But I repeat, in different words: How was the hospice ignoring her living will if it was providing food and water by mouth? How can anyone say she was being dehydrated and starved if she was offered food and hydration by mouth?

This is a very important question to me, because it touches on decisions my family made when our mother said she did not want a feeding tube or any more hospitalizations, after fighting to recover from a stroke for about seven months. At that time, she decided she did not want to fight any longer. As I understand my own Catholic faith, her decision was not immoral. Our decision to respect her and not have her hospitalized and not have a feeding tube inserted was not immoral. We continued to provide her with maximum nutrition and hydration delivered by mouth.

The thought in this discussion seems to be that if one is not on a feeding tube, one is being starved and dehydrated. This is, to me, contrary to my understanding of food and water as normal care, that may be given by mouth if the patient is able to receive. If this is what was happening to Mae Magouirk, how can we say she was being starved and dehydrated?

Rae

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