The Room I Die In
Wed, 5/26/2010 4:55 PM
Many of you know that as the medical director of Methodist Hospice and Palliative Services, I help to supervise the care of over three thousand patients a year, most of whom die. Out of that experience, I’ve had a good bit of time and context in which to reflect on my own death, and how I’d like for it to be. Choosing the time and place of death is beyond our normal human capacity, but if I had my wishes, here are some thoughts about place.
I want a fairly open room, with a line of sight to a clear window, with the blinds drawn. I’d prefer the window be at home, but a hospice residence would do. What would most definitely not do would to be in a hospital room, with flourescent lights, lots of tubes, and someone I don’t know awakening me every four hours to take my blood pressure, then tell me to get some rest (well, I was before you came in).
I’d like a few books, and some friends and family. They can come and go as they please, as long as they laugh twice as much as they cry. I’d like big, blown-up pictures on the wall of my family (so I could still see them, as long as possible). I’m okay with having a television, but I wouldn’t want it on 24/7. I refuse to have my solemn moments polluted with the babblings of a talk-show guest, or a commercial to cut my credit card payments. And leave the dog outside, unless he’s quite old (too old to jump on the bed and hurt me).
I don’t want a ventilator. I don’t want a nasogastric or gastrostomy tube, unless I’m throwing up regularly, and it can’t be controlled with medicines. I don’t want a Foley catheter, as long as I can urinate on my own (better the indignity of diapers than the pain of snagging the tube on the side of the bed as I roll over at night). And I definitely refuse to have those fake, plastic-wrapped-up-in-plastic hospital food service utensils. If you can’t feed me with real ceramic and metal, don’t feed me. When I’m perishing, I don’t want to be surrounded by styrofoam things that will outlive the rest of the planet.
There are my rambling thoughts about place of death. Remember, though; I’ve seen a lot, so there might be a bit of weight in the words.
Dr. Clay Jackson is the medical director for Methodist Hospice & Palliative Services team. For more information about Hospice & Palliative Care Services, call or . All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.
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