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When should the Dr. tell the patient how long they have to live?

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When should the Dr. tell the patient how long they have to live?

Postby aelfraed50 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:16 pm

My dear friend has been diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. She has wasted to 88 pounds. She is no longer able to eat or take in fluids. She went into the hospital and had IV's, a stint in her bile duct and the Dr. suggested she try to eat. Her pain level is severe. She is on Morphine suppositories an a patch. She thinks if she goes to Houston, she can be cured. She is in denial, I want to be there for her and I will be, but don't know if she should know that she only has weeks left to live. I don't want what is left of her life spent trying to find a cure that isn't there. I am feeling so very helpless.
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When should the Dr. tell the patient how long they have to live?

Postby hadwin » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:20 pm

You mention that she is in denial.
It is quite possible that the doctors have tried their hardest to have "the talk" with her, and she just won't listen.
That happens a lot, unfortunately. Doctors as a whole are doing a lot better these days with letting patients and their families know when the end is coming, and what they can do to prepare for it. But no body can force acceptance upon a person; and that is the absolute hardest thing to watch, both for the caregivers and for the family members who understand the gravity of the situation.
I'm so sorry you feel helpless; all you can do is be her friend, and help her where she is, emotionally. Starting arguments and trying to force reason with her probably can cause high anxiety; denial is one form of coping; it isn't a great strategy but is a strategy.
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When should the Dr. tell the patient how long they have to live?

Postby sedgewik » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:23 pm

You're in a tough situation. My personal opinion is that if your friend wanted to know, he would ask. The fact that he isn't asking says to me he doesn't want to know. If the situation is as dire as you say, the doctor will almost certainly recommend that the patient be moved out of the hospital and into a hospice.
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When should the Dr. tell the patient how long they have to live?

Postby baeddan » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:40 pm

I'm so sorry to hear of the condition your dear friend is in, dear lady.

Unfortunately, your friend's doctor(s) may feel that it would serve no useful purpose to inform your friend of just how bad her condition is. Sadly, not everyone is able to handle the information in a way that they wouldn't feel terribly anxious/distraught at the thought of what's to come.

It COULD be that they feel things have already gone too far, and are deliberately avoiding upsetting your friend.

Will the doctor(s) speak with you about your friend? I'm assuming that as you're not a relative that they MAY not. Are there any family members around? They MAY have better luck with talking to the medical staff.

Are you actually sure that the medical staff believe there's little more that can be done for your friend? It MAY be that they believe your friend isn't in quite such a bad state as you think she is. This is something that needs to be clarified. You MAY be working yourself up over something that's not going to happen.

Does your friend have any religious affiliations? i.e. is she Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Pagan? Maybe you could arrange for a representative of whichever church to speak with her?

Have you tried talking to your friend yourself? I'm not suggesting that you be the one to tell her how bad the situation is, but have you listened to what she's saying? She MAY already know that things aren't looking good, and she MAY be trying to avoid upsetting you.

I appreciate those last few comments may seem a little strange to you, but I've been present at a few hundred deaths, and you'd scarcely believe some of the 'secrets' that people let you in on when they know that their time is near. Just be there for your friend for when and/or if she wants to say something to you ... and do, please, take care of yourself. If there's someone that you need to talk to, do ask. You'd be surprised at just what help there is available ... and don't keep things bottled up inside.

Blessed Be, my friend.
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