There have been some pretty interesting articles over the last few years about the fact that those in the medical profession die differently than the patients we take care of:
Dr. Helen Chapple addressed the issues presented in these articles, and many more, in her thoughtful book, No Place for Dying. What Dr. Chapple discusses as the ideology of rescue is what nurses see all too frequently. Doctors and family members, striving against all odds to preserve life at any cost. Doctors and nurses are trained to save lives. To prolong life. Families rarely elect to withhold life-prolonging treatment, regardless of what the patient wants.
If you’ve struggled with the emotions and ethics of following painful orders for a terminal patient, this book was designed for you. No, it won’t make you feel better after your patient has screamed in pain when you do your bedside debridement of her pressure wound, knowing all the while that her body doesn’t have the resources to fight the infection, and she doesn’t have the will to keep fighting. But it will remind you that you are not alone. It will help you sort through the ethical implications. It will give you a sound foundation to wrap your concerns with. And it will make you a more effective patient advocate when the time comes to have those tough conversations with the physicians and family.
Dr. Chapple teaches ethics to nursing students at Creighton University, and makes a point of preparing her students to face the real world of nursing – not the textbook illusion.
* Disclaimer: Dr. Chapple is my aunt. But even if she weren’t, I’d still give this book a stellar rating.