Scott Adams on His Father’s Final Days

My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s as close to a living Hell as you can get.

If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon.

Because it’s not too soon. It’s far too late. His smallish estate pays about $8,000 per month to keep him in this state of perpetual suffering. Rarely has money been so poorly spent.

“Dilbert” creator Scott Adams wrote a polarizing post this weekend about how powerless he felt about his father’s end-of-life care, specifically, how neither he nor his father’s doctors could make the decision to end his father’s life to put him out of his suffering. We’ve talked a little bit about having end-of-life discussions before, but Adams is talking specifically about “doctor-assisted suicide” here, and it’s not clear what his father was suffering from and whether there was a living will or a health care directive. Adams’s father passed away a few hours after the post went up.

Photo: Martin Pulasky


5 Comments / Post A Comment

allreb (#502)

This sort of thing is incredibly difficult. I’m not an Adams fan, but I can definitely empathize with this. My mother passed away a couple of months ago, and we were incredibly lucky – she had been a hospice nurse for several years and knew what options were available to her when it came to dying, and how to talk about them. When her quality of life had gone so far downhill that she couldn’t stand it anymore, she decided to go off treatment (chemo for brain cancer), and when it was very clear that we couldn’t take care of her at home anymore, she told us it was time to get her into the hospice facility where she’d worked.

Knowing we were doing what she wanted helped a lot, and it definitely isn’t the same as assisted suicide. But Mom was at Hospicare for a bit over a month, and only for the first week or so was she able to communicate or even move, really. She was ready to go, and it was just a waiting game that grew worse and worse as time went on. The emotional cost was enormous – I don’t know that it would have been easier if she’d died more quickly, but I don’t think I would have missed any time with Mom if she’d passed away after one week instead of five. Mom was already gone, and what was left was a body that was, yes, very expensive to care for. All told, the bill was over $7,000 – and that’s just what we paid out of pocket, after insurance covered all of the medical and treatment related expenses.

We were incredibly lucky that money was not a deciding factor in the care that Mom received (and her life insurance was more than enough to pay for it, and the remainder of her medical bills, thank god). But considering how much the cost of care can be, both financially and emotionally, I am definitely pro-assisted suicide. It shouldn’t be the first go-to response to illness or oldness, but it should be an option for people who want or need it, as a way to not only spare themselves suffering, but their families, too.

(Sorry for the tl;dr, she types self-consciously; Mom stuff is still hard to comment about even when it’s relevant.)

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@allreb Thank you for sharing – it’s good to hear your perspective, espeically on something so personal.

@allreb I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@allreb Thanks for posting this. I’m sorry for your loss.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

I very much hope that physican-assisted suicide is an option if/when I reach an advanced age. I’ve been talking about this fairly regularly with my boyfriend, in part because Quebec is discussing options: quality of life, end of life care, what makes me human and myself.

As an atheist in a country that has “socialized” medicine, I have no moral quandries about a strong regulatory framework to provide people with options about their final days. Both for the good to society that comes from reduced use of scarce health care resources, and because my body is a shell that serves me but is not sacred in any way.

I’ve seen the wonders of modern medicine (a friend with breast cancer who was effectively treated, my step-father survive and recover very well from a heart attack that would have killed him in the 1980s) and the difficulty of end of life care (grandparents who declined slowly then quickly, in care facilities, an uncle with cancer whose palliative care was done in the home). Determining when is of course the difficult part. But I dont wish to end my life in pain, with no bladder control, unable to remember my life or communicate with my loved ones, or some variation on this.

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