'Twelve Breaths': Lessons From Life's End (NPR, 7/25/11)
There's a new book of essays, "Twelve Breaths a Minute," on the unexpected decisions we face as members of our family, our friends, and others near the end of life. The NPR show "Talk of the Nation" today interviewed the book's editor as well as one of the contributors, a leukemia specialist.
One of the messages in the book is that families should have a conversation about how to prepare yourself and your loved ones for the end-of-life stage: "These are decisions that we all need to face up to sooner rather than later." The book's editor tells the story about an intern working in a hospital who was asked to turn off someone's ventilator. The intern was ill-prepared to do this as there hadn't been a class in medical school on this; she had been taught in medical school how to keep people alive. Fortunately, the person who was on a ventilator had had a discussion with her family as to her end-of-life wishes.
Many, many of our local support group members with neurodegenerative diseases have developed breathing problems and have been rushed to emergency rooms. Families are asked to make decisions immediately about intubation. There's a useful story in the radio show about a daughter who asked for her mother to be extubated in the ER, and the ER MD refused.
And I appreciated this statement by the leukemia specialist: "I do want to just briefly say that dying at home, I think, if that's a person's preference, that's a good thing to support, and we should work very hard to do that. For many people and many families, care needs are very great, the emotional distress of going through the process. So I think we, as a society, need to not think about home, hospice, hospital, bad, good, but think about how do we make these decisions soon enough so that we can all have our preferred care as we die."
You can listen to the radio show at this link:http://www.npr.org/2011/07/25/138678808 ... -lifes-end
You can read a transcript here:http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript ... =138678808
You can read excerpts from one of the essays from the book here:http://www.npr.org/books/titles/1386790 ... ys#excerpt
Here's a link to a story about today's radio show:http://www.npr.org/2011/07/25/138678808 ... -lifes-end