Withdrawing Life Support
I don’t always sleep well through the night, so sometimes I turn on the radio and listen to some overnight shows. On CBC, it’s often programming from around the world, including Britain, Germany and Australia. It’s good to get news and information from other countries. I think it makes me a more educated and well-rounded person.
Recently, I was listening to the “Health Report” which is a weekly radio program from Australia. But I was much more awake when they started talking about what was happening in Alberta Canada!
The discussion was “who gets care if hospitals become overwhelmed? What may happen if the hospital systems in New South Wales and Victoria (in Australia) are overwhelmed when they lift restrictions and the expected surge in (COVID-19) cases occurs?”
Will the health system cope? Or will it only do so because of tough decisions by doctors about who gets into intensive care units and who doesn’t.
What are the decision making guidelines that hospitals use to make these decisions?
The discussion was about the triage decisions that need to be made when resources are limited. How do the health professionals decide who gets admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit) care and who doesn’t.
Apparently, Australia doesn’t have this process or tool in place (yet) and are looking around the world to see who has it in place and how does it work. They acknowledge they need to have a policy in place to protect the health care professionals and support their decisions about someone’s care.
The number of days someone is on a ventilator may need to be shortened if there are others that need it. Health professionals may need to determine that if someone on a ventilator has a very low expectation of surviving that they may remove that patient from the ventilator (and allow to die) and give the equipment to someone else who has a better chance of survival.
Or a patient may not even be admitted to the ICU if their chance of survival is lower compared to others already there.
The discussion was about what tools and processes Alberta has for their decision-making process since they are having to make these decisions now with the overwhelming number of people in hospital and in the ICUs. Most of the patients are COVID patients and almost all of those are unvaccinated.
Family discussion about Life Support
I hope you and your family can get together this Thanksgiving weekend or during the fall season. Please do so safely and according to the health guidelines or recommendations, such as gathering indoors with only those that have been fully vaccinated.
And I encourage you to take some time to discuss with your family members about what their thoughts are about life support if they should be hospitalized and need intensive care including the use of a ventilator or other life support measures.
Have you seen pictures of the memorial of white flags dotting the lawn of the National Mall in Washington, DC? Each white flag represents each person in the USA that has died from COVID. The number is now over 700,000. One of the flags is for a 99-year-old World War II vet who declined a ventilator and told his family and doctors “to use it on someone younger”.
If you have an older person in your family, would they say the same thing? Ask them. Have the conversation. Can you respect their wishes and follow through with them when the time comes?
People of all ages should talk about this. I have seen serious injuries happen to young people and parents need to make tough decisions about medical procedures or long-term care for this loved one. If the discussion didn’t happen before the accident, then the parents and other family members are making tough decisions. It would have been much easier if they knew what the person would have wanted.
If you were in a serious accident and in a vegetative state with no chance of recovery, how long would you want to receive life support?
Think about it, talk about it.
These are not easy discussions and it may take many attempts to get even a bit comfortable talking about it with your family.
Advance Care Plan
There are many tools to help you with decisions about your end-of-life care.
Dying with Dignity Canada has free Advance Care Planning Kits to help you take the guesswork out of documenting your wishes.
If you do not have access to the internet to print off the documents, give us a call and we can have one printed for you.
Anni Markmann is a Personal Income Tax Professional and Certified Financial Planner; living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact Ste Anne Tax Service at 204.422.6631 or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne (near Co-op) or firstname.lastname@example.org