If Your Luck Runs Out

Maybe this is medical week, my last post was about “hands only” CPR. But it made me think about what happens if your luck runs out. For me that would be the case of being trapped in an unresponsive body, being in a  vegetative state or anything requiring prolonged heroic efforts to keep me alive for a long time.

Have you seen the movie “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly” or read the book? It’s about a lively and successful big-time magazine editor who suffers a massive stroke and revives with a clear mind but only being able to use and control his left eyelid. It’s a great movie and a good story, but it seemed horrible. And then it turns out he dies less than two years later.

I started wondering if there’s an easy, clear “Do Not Resuscitate” medal or tattoo that medical personnel look for and would honor. I checked with a doctor I trust and here’s the answer I got “Leave a letter with your internist, plus a bracelet, with a statement of no prolonged life-sustaining treatment. And a note on your driver’s licence for organ donation is worthwhile too.” That makes sense,  saying “no prolonged treatment,” because you do want doctors to try, just not to prolong their efforts.

There’s also a connection to the blog I wrote last month about “The Secret Lives of Doctors.” It seems many doctors choose not pursue extraordinary measures to extend their own lives, opting for quality of life over quantity of life at the end of life. That’s good enough for me too.