Ernest Hood/Death With Dignity feature
atseots fight. f or bi got to due II 1.UMIMIIMII1..II .11. II Choices about the end of life prove wrenching for families and doctors. By Diane Dietz The Statesman Journal Era Hood was a persuasive man, able to carry people along on the sound of his voice, but when he was dying it took him a solid month to convince doctors to unplug his respirator and let him go. But he tried and tried, and by one clear blue morning in February, it looked as if he had succeeded. succeeded. The hospital had scheduled him for disconnection disconnection at 10 a.m. and his family seemed prepared. His daughter, Laurel, had taken down his instructions to spread some ashes over the places places he had been happy his home, his farm and Rogue River. His doctors finished calculating how much morphine would calm his gasping without killing him outright, factoring in a very good glass of wine. A guitarist played some of Hood's own compositions. An ex-wife ex-wife ex-wife arrived from Texas to slip her family crucifix into his hand. His grandson, age 4, flew an imaginary airplane over his bed. By 10 a.m., a dozen people had gathered in the hospital room all but the doctor who was to turn off the respirator. The doctor had disappeared, left the hospital, abandoning the job to an intern who was unprepared unprepared to act. And so it looked like Ern Hood Ern Hood: Wanted to be off respirator t. i i- i- ' ill i i i ! S s ' - :- :- 3 . . , I J . ' , . " i - 4 - it ' - 1 ?-4 ?-4 ?-4 . 97 ft, ... . .. ... Jay RelterStatesman Journal DECISIONS: Laurel Hood helped her father convince hospital officials that he wanted to stop treaments. Full page inside7 A DECISIONS: What do you think about assisted suicide? would live a while longer, whether whether he wanted to or not. How far do we go? Most families will never face a life or death decision quite as stark as that of Ern Hood and his family, because there was no question that without a respirator respirator Hood would die. But most families eventually will face the question of how far to go to keep a loved one alive. Most people die in hospitals, where care has become so sophisticated sophisticated that the process of death has become a series of choices about which treatments to administer administer and which to withhold. For each dramatic choice like Hood's, there are hundreds of smaller decisions about whether to continue heart drugs or when to stop antibiotics. Opponents of Oregon's doctor-assisted doctor-assisted doctor-assisted suicide law maintain that doctors and families can't be trusted to make ethical decisions about when to help a dying patient patient go. But, in truth, doctors and families families are already making those decisions. decisions. The law recognizes that a person person has the greatest authority over what happens to their body. But too often patients are in a coma or otherwise unable to speak; doctors and patients loved ones are left to guess what the patient would want. Only one fifth of people get around to making making out a living will. Moreover, family members are notoriously inaccurate in determining determining a patient's wishes. Please see Die, Page 7A M A T I E , 0"F3 ' d y i n j About the series In November, Oregon voters approved Measure 16, an initiative that gave doctors the right to help the terminally ill commit suicide. suicide. A federal judge has put a temporary halt to the measure, measure, but what he couldn't stop was the ongoing practice practice of people making decisions decisions to end their own life or the life of a loved one. They're simply doing it without a doctor writing the fatal prescription. TODAY: By the time he had lost his voice, the use of his legs and the ability ability to breathe on his own, Em Hood wanted to die. Now all he had to do was convince his family and his doctors to help him. MONDAY: Patients have been fighting to gain control over major medical decisions for decades. Remember Remember Karen Ann Quin-lan? Quin-lan? Quin-lan? TUESDAY: A nurse, hospital administrator, pharmacist and other medical professionals discuss discuss what they would do if doctor-assisted doctor-assisted doctor-assisted suicide becomes becomes legal.