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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Right to Die: Views from the Ambulance

Professor Seth Chandler, Foundation Professor of Law and Co-Director Health Law & Policy Institute, sends the following excerpt from a London ambulance driver's blog.  It is very moving.(http://randomreality.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/9/5/1194694.html)

Dear patient,

I'm sorry.

I know you thought that you were going to die peacefully, but we have to try and save lives, even though you were terminally ill. Your husband didn't want you to die yet, neither did your daughter.

I'm sorry that when I reached you, you were breathing your last. It meant that I had to lift you off your bed onto the hard floor.

I'm sorry I had to do that, but it is the only way I could do effective chest compressions. I'm sorry I had to do the chest compressions, I know I broke some of your ribs, but please understand that it is a known side effect of trying to keep your heart pumping.

I'm sorry that we had to put those needles in your veins, but you needed the fluid. You also needed the drugs that helped your heart beat - but it was probably painful.

I'm sorry that we had to pump air into your lungs, it can't have been nice for you, but we needed to keep your vital organs supplied with oxygen.

I'm sorry that because of the air in your pleural space we had to push two large needles into your chest. I don't know if you felt it, but it did help reinflate your lungs.

I'm sorry that your husband didn't quite understand what was going on - we tried to explain, and I think that at the end he did realise that you probably weren't going to wake up.

I hope you didn't mind when we had to keep passing a couple of hundred joules through your body - it made your body jump, but it's not your fault. I don't know if it hurts. I hope it didn't.

I know that the journey into hospital wasn't the smoothest ride, and the sirens were loud - but we did need to get you into hospital quickly.

I did remember to wrap the blanket around you so that anyone standing outside the hospital doors wouldn't see that you were naked.

But...

...I'm not sorry that we, and the hospital were able to keep you alive long enough for your family to arrive and gather around you.

I hope that there was a part of you that was still aware of what was happening, and was able to hear their words of love.

I hope that it was worth the pain so that you could hear those words, and feel their presence.

I left you at the hospital, your heart was beating and you were breathing. I hope that your end was without pain.

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