A pacemaker wrecks a family's life

June 27, 2010

Then came the autumn day when [my mother] asked for my help, and I said yes. I told myself that we were simply trying to undo a terrible medical mistake. I reminded myself that my dad had rejected a pacemaker when his faculties were intact. I imagined, as a bioethicist had suggested, having a 15-minute conversation with my independent, predementia father in which I saw him shaking his head in horror over any further extension of what was not a "life," but a prolonged and attenuated dying. None of it helped. I knew that once he died, I would dream of him and miss his mute, loving smiles. I wanted to melt into the arms of the father I once had and ask him to handle this. Instead, I felt as if I were signing on as his executioner and that I had no choice.

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