Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about a new screening tool that allows people to know if they're dying within 30 days. The researchers' hope is to relieve the families of patients in serious conditions from expensive medical costs, the patients from unnecessary intrusive medical procedures, and medial staff from the pressure of keeping the patients alive under any circumstances.
Here are some of the readers' comments.
John Boag American, HCM City, Viet Nam
Please spare me the time of my death. I think if I were told by medical tests when I was going to die, I would probably die from shock on the spot from such knowledge.
My son was hit by a truck and given a slim chance to live. He had such severe brain damage that I was asked by a doctor if I would donate his body parts. I said, "under no condition would I allow the finest son in the world to pass."
I would visit him in the hospital and in our solitude and his comma, I would wash his feet with my tears. The anguish was intense and heartbreaking.
Then one day he began to speak, slowly and forced at first. Now, though he is confined to a wheelchair, I communicate everyday with my best buddy.
Keep hope alive.
Anh Pham, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
My grandfather recently passed away and the situation was almost identical to what was described in the topic. He had a stroke and after being admitted to the hospital he never gained consciousness.
I know he would have never wanted it to end that way. Of course, we didn't think about it that way back then. We did all we could, and I'm sure the medical staff did all they could, to keep him alive. But I find myself wondering sometimes, if we knew he wasn't going to make it then maybe we would have done it differently.
We would have loved to have an opportunity to say goodbye to him or maybe even spend some quality time with him before the end. On the other hand, I think it would be the most difficult thing to do to give up; it doesn't matter how accurate and reliable the test is.
How can anyone accept that it's time to say goodbye to their loved ones? In all likelihood, most people would grab on to the last ray of hope, however thin it is, and believe that their loved ones will make it somehow.
Thinh Phat, United States
In the United States, there has been a long debate over "volunteer deaths." Specifically, whether or not doctors should help patients die when they suffer from serious diseases or are sick and really want to die by choice. So far, this debate has yet to find its end.
Personally, I support "volunteer death," therefore I favor the screening test as well. If the results of a screening test of a patient shows that he/she will die within a month, the doctors should let him/her go home to die.
Hari Chathrattil, Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Twelve years ago, I watched a doctor in Viet Nam tell my wife I did not have long to live. Twelve years ago, a doctor in India also told me that my chances of survival were slim. Twelve years ago, in a hospital in Syracuse, United States, I had as my roommate the incredibly cheerful 78-year-old Gordon Fisher. Gordon had been fighting cancer for almost three decades and had been told, if memory serves me right, at least three times, that he had less than a month left to live.
Twelve years ago, I watched three people that I met and befriended in the cancer ward die in the very prime of their lives.
Predicting the possibility of death is part of a doctor's brief, but I would look askance at treating that prognosis as the final word. There's more to life and death than medical science as we know it in modern times.
That said, I think every adult has a right to decide if he/she wants to live on in extreme discomfort and pain; to opt for the kind of treatment he/she wants; and to choose to be in a place of comfort, surrounded by loved ones, as his/her time on this earth and in this body comes to an end.
Many years ago, my uncle, suffering a serious heart ailment, told me to take him home from the hospital. I said I would, not to worry. Before I got around to doing it, however, he passed away and I regret I was not able to do what he wanted.
Whether one is a medical professional or a loved one, our sensitivity should be manifest in staying attuned, lovingly so, to the old patient's comfort and wishes, even when it comes to letting go.
Phuong Hanh, HCM City
What I know for sure is that I don't want to be kept alive by machines when there's almost no chance of me ever leaving the hospital. And yet, that's the way a large number of people go.
I think the test is a useful tool. If used right, it can help doctors prepare people for the fact that their loved ones aren't likely to make it.
I think any tool which attempts to make moments of judgment more clear is to be welcomed.
There is always a need for caution however. There will always be the occasional patient who ‘defies the odds', and any tool should be used with the understanding that it is an aid and not a replacement. — VNS