Thoughts and other trivia...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Would you tell someone that they are seriously ill and, in fact, may not have much time? A couple of months or so ago, there was a big discussion about a similar issue on M’s blog. (Sadly, for some personal reasons, she has not been blogging for a while.) My own take on this, based on personal experience and general belief, was that the person has a right to know. Now, in a similar situation again, I have revised my opinion a little. I still believe that one cannot keep such vital information from the concerned person. S/he has a right to know and, perhaps, more than others. But, I have also come to believe that such revelation, if there should be one at all, depends entirely on the person himself/herself. If I were sick, without a shadow of doubt, I’d want to know. Everything. Including the exact nature of my sickness and how much time I have left. I don’t know how that would help me or what I think I’ll achieve by knowing but, all the same, I’d like to be told.

There’re some people, however, who, you know, will not receive this information well. Because, through life, and through one’s actions and general beliefs, one creates a personal history, which, whether right or not, helps others around to form a certain opinion of the kind of person one is and what one’s take on various things is. There’re also some around that person who, you know again, will not be able to handle the news. Wise or not, this is what we’ve chosen to do. We’ve kept the information from the person who’s ill and from another person around this person. And, since these two don’t know, it seems unfair and wrong to tell the relatives, who, being who they are, are speculating anyway. Even fishing for information. But, being who I am, I’ve never bothered with established protocols and am not about to start now.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll regret this later but, although I do have misgivings about this, I’m not sure what good it’ll do to tell. The concerned person already seems beyond comprehending the truth, barely able to speak and, at most times, forgetful and disorientated. And, as my friend said, the only other person who doesn’t know, perhaps, is better off not knowing. It’s better for this person not to know and, therefore, not expect the worst everyday. It’s better this way because, besides age, this person has plenty of other personal physical problems to deal with.

Such situations cannot have definite rights or wrongs, I know, but that’s hardly comforting. It’s bad enough to watch someone deteriorate and slip away and these nagging doubts, about holding back information and the attendant guilt, only make it more difficult.

I was in Bombay when I got this news. When I spoke to the doctor from there, I was told that this person doesn’t have much time. I’m quite amazed that the same doctor and his team couldn’t detect the problem three weeks prior to this announcement, when this person was first hospitalised. At that time, the person was treated for a different ailment and given around 25-30 injections during the three days in hospital. How can they get it so wrong? Or, at any rate, fail to detect something so serious? I’m not sure it even makes sense.

Anyway, since modern medicine cannot do very much now, we’ve turned to alternative medicine but I’m not sure how effective it’s going to be at this stage. It’s not magic, after all.

(April 29) From the time that I first started to write this post, three days ago, there has been significant deterioration in the person’s condition. The signs, which I can co-relate to a similar illness in another person in the family many years ago, are rather ominous and anything that one does now only amounts to clutching at straws. But what else can one do?

(May 2, 2006) It doesn’t matter any more now, I guess. This person passed on on this Saturday, April 29.


Blogger MockTurtle said...

Sorry for your loss Ghost. Here's wishing you strength for the near future and happiness for the long term.

1:03 am  
Anonymous chandni said...

I completely agree with what u've said...I would definitely want to know...but I guess it doesnt work for everyone..

may be one should decide case to case..some will be more peaceful not knowing, and still having hope that things will be ok...

I am really sorry for your loss

8:05 am  
Blogger Selma Mirza said...

Ghost, I hope you are alright? And if not, I hope you feel better soon. *hug*

8:18 am  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...


Remember our conversation about death, my blog, late March? It always comes back to the survivors, doesn't it? I hope the other person who wasn't told is bearing up.

Please be strong.

3:37 pm  
Blogger km said...

Sorry to read about your loss, GoTJ.

11:46 pm  
Blogger sattva said...

hope you find the strength needed to deal with this.

1:00 pm  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

I didn't read this until now and feel very strongly for your loss. I can tell you were close to the person and were feeling torn about whether the person has the right to know. Sometimes you think you know all the answers. Sometimes the question changes. May be it was in the best interest of the person(s) involved that they did not know the cold, hard truth. What I meant in my posts was wanting to know primarily to diagnose and treat. If something is so far advanced that knowing the truth would not change things, may be it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
But like you say, it doesn't matter any more. Or may be it does. May be someone else will be in the same situation as you. And may be what you decide today will help him/ her decide later.
Once again, I'm sorry for your loss and hope you are able to deal with it.
Take care. And yes, I'm trying to write again. Inspite of it all.

10:03 pm  
Blogger Ash said...

Sorry GOTJ. I lost my only brother. It will be two years this June. So I understand. And lately I have come to realise that there are no definitely 'rights' or 'wrongs' for anything in life. *hugs*
You take care.

9:05 am  

Sorry to read that...I despise information being withheld. I know I was knocked off a bike once and when I regained some senses, I asked the nurse why the hell am I in tht bed and everyone looking at me...She said nothing...I told her if there is nothing, I am getting up....finally my bro told me I am in the hospital courtesy an accident...After tht I have made it very clear tht if anything were to happen to me, I need to nkow about it...Noone is going to keep things away from me as one can sense tht something is rong and when no one tells you wht is, you end up straining a lot to find out wht is rong...I dont want to put my head thru tht strain....I want all the nurses n docs to tell me personal life cant be hidden from me...This is a very touching matter tht you have written about....And docs and their goof ups...They happen so so so many times....Dont know if it entirely their mistake or something in our body does not reveal the exact sickness....But ofcourse, we prefer to believe tht the docs goofs up which is the case most of the times....Once again, I am sorry....So very sorry!

4:35 am  
Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Like I said in M's, we dwell too hard on how we'll break the news. They have a right to know, maybe just as all of will have...

God, this is sad

10:47 pm  
Blogger the-think said...

And so it goes on...
Sometimes it turns out to bea bigger traums for those living through all of this and not being sure of exactly what do to at any point in time...
take care...

7:19 am  
Blogger aria said...

I'm so sorry & at loss for words.
However, I'm all for information being divulged sooner or later.
It must be really tough - going through all these ordeals and eventually losing the person - you held so dear.
Such are the vagaries of life.
Do take care.

3:18 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

i know there is no use saying sorry for your loss and all, but i am. hope you're ok!
if things were to happen so fast as in this situation, then i guess it's kinder to not let the person know as much as possible.

I'd want to know though.

11:39 pm  
Blogger Blue Athena said...

Agree. The person has a right to know, more than anybody else. It is, after all, his or her life that others are talking about.

I am so sorry for your loss. :(

You take care.

9:20 am  
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