Fast forward 70 years. I had a call from a patient later that day. She has a complicated illness about which I will spare you the details. She is very much ready to die, but her family is most definitely NOT ready to let her go. There is, thankfully, in this case, no "conspiracy of silence" as I see in some families with differences of opinions, and as was seen in Lou Gehrig's case, but there is clearly a conflict of feelings. I am certain these feelings have very deep roots, who knows on what basis. Anyway, the patient wanted to stay home and let nature take its course, yet the family wanted to take her to the hospital for treatment "in case there was something that could be done". The patient, though it was not what she might have otherwise chosen, wanted to make sure her family's wishes were followed, and agreed to go in to be checked out. Her family's feelings were more important to her than her own wishes.
I don't think a lot has changed in 70 years. We still can't cure ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. Patients may live a bit longer now with better general medical care, and hopefully their death is more comfortable now with good palliative and hospice care. Families and doctors still don't want to take away hope, though thankfully now some are realizing that hope is so much more than hope for a cure, and that honesty, while difficult, is the best course in discussing prognosis.
July 4th. Independence Day. 70 years ago, a giant of a man bravely faced an illness he didn't understand. Yesterday, a giant of a lady faced an illness she didn't understand. Both placed the needs of others ahead of their own. Both will ultimately share the same fate, as will we all. I pray that we honor those who have given their lives for the freedom of this country, and those who have dedicated their lives to others, and all those who have faced or are facing the final chapters of their lives.