Going Gently

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

APRIL 14, 2017

This is a sad day for me as a dear friend died this morning. He has been ill for a long time, and his death is an end to the suffering, but also an end to all the joy and love and glow of his life. I have always felt that anticipatory grieving just prolongs the sadness and does not help one whit when the real time comes--and am feeling that again now.

Allen subscribed to Dylan Thomas' words: Do not go gentle into good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. He refused to give an inch to his disease, fought it and maintained a dignified optimism. Surely not all us would or can do it the same way.

One of my brothers is a minister and has often reminded me that when a ship leaves the harbor, we say "There she goes." And that , on the far shore, they are saying: "Here she comes."

Many cancer patients, facing the end of life, are hoping for a gentle and good easy (if there is such a thing, and I think that there is) end. The important lesson for us all is that we need to think about this and talk about it with those whom we love. Here is that view from Susan Gubar:

At the End of Life, a Way to Go Gentle

While confronting the prospect of death, people like me — grappling with a
diagnosis of advanced cancer — often consider what sort of care they want and how
to say goodbye. Given the delicate negotiations in which the dying need to engage,
do intensive care physicians with their draconian interventions act like proverbial
bulls in a china shop? My fear of pointless end-of-life treatments, performed while
I was in no condition to reject them, escalated when I read Dr. Jessica Nutik
Zitter’s book, “Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life.”
Dr. Zitter confronts the sort of scenario that haunts me because she works in
specialties that are sometimes seen as contradictory: pulmonary/critical care and
palliative care.
In her new book, she refers to the usual intensive care unit approach as the
“end-of-life conveyor belt.” She argues that palliative care methods should be used
to slow down and derail the typical destructive I.C.U. approach that often torments
people it cannot heal.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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