June 22, 2012

Letters to the Editor

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Families need to have difficult discussions about health care decisions, doctor says

Father Tad Pacholoczyk’s column, “What about Ventilators?,” in the June 15 issue of The Criterion provides an excellent overview of the issues facing patients, families and health care professionals regarding ventilators and the critically ill.

Unfortunately, many people do not discuss with their families what they would or would not wish to have done for them were they seriously ill. This includes decisions regarding the institution or withdrawal of ventilators, medications, etc.

As a physician who cares for critically ill patients, I often encounter families who are forced to make very difficult and heartbreaking decisions for their loved one who is sick.

Sometimes, due to guilt or uncertainty, they cannot make the hard decision that may be in the patient’s best interest. Their loved one is then subjected to additional treatments that he or she may never have wanted.

Although our mortality is difficult to speak about, especially with those who are close to us, it is essential that we do.

If families are open to having such discussions, it may save someone from unwanted treatment and may spare the family members from making very painful decisions regarding such treatment.

- Dr. Stephen O’Neil | Indianapolis

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