Familiarity with Dying

I have dedicated my life to death. For over forty winters at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, I have been at the bedside with over 40,000 patient encounters in the last stages of their lives on this earth. Held the hands of family members. Prayed with them. Listened. Answered questions (not all questions had answers, such as these: How long am I going to live? Who will be with me? Will my family forgive me? and Will I have pain?).

My book, Farewell: Vital End-of-Life Questions with Candid Answers from a Leading Palliative and Hospice Physician, addresses the issues in navigating those last days and saying farewell with hope, love, and compassion. About making end-of-life decisions when Mom or Dad can’t or won’t.

It’s about understanding what’s happening in the mind of someone facing their last days, hours, minutes, and moments. About coming to grips with our own mortality, maybe putting plans in place, living life differently after having held the hand of a loved one who is actively dying. It’s about giving hope where none seemed possible.

A Crucial Question

When faced with the agonizing situation of whether to sustain an individual artificially, family members may seek the counsel of a spiritual advisor or member of leadership in a faith community, in addition to considering the advice of the medical team.

To make these crucial life-and-death decisions, family members often find comfort when they consider this question: If Mom could turn back the clock one hour and sit up in bed, what would she share with us about her wishes?

Most find are able to find comfort in making these hard decisions to discontinue mechanical intervention, and allow death to embrace the patient who then can die in a natural environment.

Edward T. Creagan, MD, FAAHPM, tweets daily @EdwardCreagan and @AskDoctorEd and blogs at www.AskDoctorEd.com, where he can be contacted.

Dr. Creagan’s book, FAREWELL, is available at https://www.amazon.com/Farewell-End-Life-Questions-Palliative/dp/099165448X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536070043&sr=8-1&keywords=farewell+creagan

Dr. Edward Creagan

Edward T. Creagan, MD, FAAHPM, a cancer specialist, is the first Mayo Clinic doctor board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. He stepped away from active clinical practice in 2018 after 40 winters at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He is professor emeritus of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic Medical School where he held the endowed chair as the John and Roma Rouse Professor of Humanism in Medicine, and he is now Emeritus Professor of Humanism in Medicine and an Emeritus Consultant in Palliative Medicine. He tweets daily @EdwardCreagan and @AskDoctorEd and blogs at www.AskDoctorEd.com, where he can be contacted.

More Articles Written by Dr. Edward