In A Peaceful Frame of Mind: Patients Demanding Control over Their Medical Care May Not Relinquish It in Their Final Days

By Quindlen, Anna | Newsweek, February 4, 2002 | Go to article overview

In A Peaceful Frame of Mind: Patients Demanding Control over Their Medical Care May Not Relinquish It in Their Final Days


Quindlen, Anna, Newsweek


Byline: Anna Quindlen

It was the part about reading that got to me. by the time Joan and Chester Nimitz Jr. had decided to die together, their laundry list of physical losses was nearly as long as their rich and fruitful lives. Chester Nimitz, 86, a retired admiral and CEO and the son of the Pacific fleet commander in World War II, was suffering from congestive heart failure, constant back pain and stomach problems so severe that he'd lost 30 pounds. His wife, 89, who had gone to dental school in her native England but stayed at home to raise their three daughters, kept breaking bones because of osteoporosis and needed round-the-clock care. Once she went blind, she could no longer read.

Audio books or no audio books, the very notion of becoming incapable of seeing words on the page gave me a bad case of the shudders, and suggested that the distinction between a life worth living and one worth leaving is probably different for each of us.

Some may fear grinding pain unresponsive to medication. For others it would be the constant losses of physical degeneration or the end of independence, an existence supervised by caregivers. For Joan and Chester Nimitz, who until a few years ago lived a life full of gardening and golfing and reading, it was all of those. "Do not dial 911 in the event we are discovered unconscious but still alive," read a note left behind in their apartment at a retirement facility. It ended, "We wish our friends and relatives to know we are leaving their company in a peaceful frame of mind."

The greatest advance in health care in our lifetime has not been transplants or new pharmaceuticals. It has been the rise of the informed consumer. Beginning with the natural-childbirth movements and breast-cancer activism of the 1970s, inspired by AIDS patients who refused to take no for an answer, Americans have increasingly demanded more information and more control. People who once took orders from their physicians are now willing only to take advice. They look for information on Web sites, in newspapers and magazines, and in conversations with friends, so that cocktail parties sometimes sound more like hospital waiting rooms than social events.

Why would anyone expect people who have become knowledgeable about cholesterol and PSAs, chemotherapy and MRIs, to suddenly cede control at the end of life? Some medical professionals decried the decision the Nimitzes made, insisting that progress in pain management and advances in modern medicine made such draconian action unnecessary. Perhaps they have never been at the bedside of a dying person being tortured by continuing invasive treatment despite the fact that all hope of recovery is long gone. The truth is that modern medicine, which too often does things because they are possible, not because they are useful, has helped make some of this inevitable.

That is apparent in poll figures that show that two out of every three Americans support the right to euthanasia. It was apparent when the people of Oregon twice approved a statute supporting physician-assisted suicide in the form of a prescription for barbiturates for properly screened terminally ill patients. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

In A Peaceful Frame of Mind: Patients Demanding Control over Their Medical Care May Not Relinquish It in Their Final Days
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.