Terminal Care: Too Painful, Too Prolonged
Hazel Welch was 93, severely disabled and living in a Connecticut nursing home when a perforated stomach ulcer landed her in the emergency room at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The physician on call, Dr. Sherwin Nuland, proposed emergency surgery to repair her exploded digestive tract. To his surprise, she refused, explaining that she had already outlived her friends and relatives, and that 92 years on this planet was quite long enough anyway. Her odds of surviving the operation were just one in three, but as Nuland recounts in his 1993 book, "How We Die," the need to,intervene seemed obvious. So he pressured her, she gave in and he operated. She survived for a few pain-filled weeks, then died of a massive stroke. "Although my intentions were only to serve ... her welfare, I was guilty of the worst sort of paternalism," Nuland reflects. "I had won out over [the ulcer] but lost the greater battle of humane care."
Hazel Welch died in 1978, but as a …
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Publication information: Article title: Terminal Care: Too Painful, Too Prolonged. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Newsweek. Volume: 126. Issue: 23 Publication date: December 4, 1995. Page number: 74+. © 2009 Newsweek, Inc. All rights reserved. Any reuse, distribution or alteration without express written permission of Newsweek is prohibited. For permission: www.newsweek.com. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
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