Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Your Truth: Demented Grandfather with Cancer

Before I post this scenario for your ethical debate, I wanted to let you all know that my biopsy results came back today. Good news! It was "nothing." So now, if I can just get the scar to fade where they cut away "nothing," all will be as good as new. ;-)

In this next scenario, a 78 year-old gentleman, Mr. Smith, has Altzheimer's disease and has just been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. As a reminder - Altzheimer's is a terminal disease. The cancer has spread enough that chemotherapy and radiation are both recommended, if the goal is to cure the cancer. Cure is not guaranteed, but is possible. The chemotherapy is expected to cause hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Mr. Smith is still able to eat, but has been bed-bound for three months without expectation of ever regaining his mobility. He is aggitated a lot of the time. Radiation will require him to lay still. Due to his frequent aggitation, this will likely require him to be sedated every day for radiation treatments. He does not recognize anyone. He no longer has the cognitive abilities to make treatment decisions for himself. Please imagine that Mr. Smith is your father or grandfather and you have been asked to decide whether or not to pursue curative measures for the cancer.

Would you choose to pursue the chemotherapy and radiation therapy? What other information might you want to know before making your decision? What are the most difficult aspects of this decision? Would your thoughts on this decision change if you were Mr. Smith?

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