William J. Peace, “Comfort Care as Denial of Personhood,”
Comfort Care as Denial of Personhood
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012
© 2012 by The Hastings Center
Hastings Center Report
Volume 42, Issue 4, pages 14–17, July-August 2012
How to Cite
Peace, W. J. (2012), Comfort Care as Denial of Personhood. Hastings Center Report, 42: 14–17. doi: 10.1002/hast.38
- Issue published online: 9 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 27 APR 2012
It is 2 a.m. I am very sick. I am not sure how long I have been hospitalized. The last two or three days have been a blur, a parade of procedures and people. I had a bloody debridement for a severe, large, and grossly infected stage four wound-the first wound I have had since I was paralyzed in 1978. I know the next six months or longer are going to be exceedingly difficult. I will be bedbound for months, dependent upon others for the first time in my adult life. As these thoughts are coursing through my mind, a physician I have never met and the registered nurse on duty appear at my door. As they put on their gowns I am weary but hopeful. Surely there is something that can be done to stop the vomiting. The physician examines me with the nurse's help. Like many other hospitalists that have examined me, he is coldly efficient. At some point, he asks the nurse to get a new medication.
What transpired after the nurse exited the room has haunted me. Paralyzed me with fear. The hospitalist asked me if I understood the gravity of my condition. He grimly told me I would be bedbound for at least six months and most likely a year or more. That there was a good chance the wound would never heal. If this happened, I would never sit in my wheelchair. I would never be able to work again. Not close to done, he told me I was looking at a life of complete and utter dependence. He went on to tell me I was on powerful antibiotics that could cause significant organ damage. He informed me I had the right to forego any medication, including the lifesaving antibiotics. If I chose not to continue with the current therapy, I could be made very comfortable. I would feel no pain or discomfort at all. Although not explicitly stated, the message was loud and clear. I can help you die peacefully.