End of Life issues-  ‘Hold on’ or ‘Let go’ #Tom-Sizemore

A difficult decision near death- try to ‘hold on’ or ‘let go’

The eternal human wish is to fight hard against age, illness, and death and holding on to life, to our loved ones, is indeed a basic human instinct. However, as an illness advances, “raging against the dying of the light” often begins to cause undue suffering, and “letting go” may instead feel like the next stage.

Tom Sizemore has no hope of recovery after he suffered a brain aneurysm, his family has said, confirming they are making an end-of-life decision for the Saving Private Ryan actor. The 61-year-old has been in a coma in the intensive care unit of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles since he was hospitalised on 18 February. On Monday night, Sizemore’s representative, Charles Lago, issued a statement revealing that there was no chance for his recovery. “Today doctors informed his family that there is no further hope and have recommended end of life decision. The family is now deciding end of life matters and a further statement will be issued on Wednesday,” Lago said.

      Humans have an instinctive desire to go on living. We experience this as desires for food, activity, learning, etc. We feel attachments to loved ones, such as family members and friends, and even to pets, and we do not want to leave them.

     When we realize that the end of life may be approaching, other thoughts and feelings arise. Fears arise, and may be so strong that they are hard to think about or even admit to: fear of change, of the dying process, of what happens after death, of losing control, of dependency and more. Both the person who is ill and the caregiver might also experience resentment, guilt, sadness, and anger at having to do what neither wants to do, namely face death and dying.

As death nears, many people feel a lessening of their desire to live longer. This is different from depression or thoughts of suicide. Instead, they sense it is time to let go.  They may reach a point where they feel they have struggled as much as they have been called upon to do and will struggle no more. Refusing to let go can prolong dying, but it cannot prevent it. Dying, thus prolonged, can become more a time of suffering than of living.

Family members and friends who love the dying person may learn to accept a life limiting illness, and then accept the possibility of a loved one dying. They may see that dying is the better of two choices and  accept the inevitability of death.

The dying may be cause distress and  grief for those who love them. If a stage  has reached when treatments are no longer working as well as before, and everyday life maintaining activities are becoming more and more burdensome. In a sense, life is disappearing. One has to look beyond the fears and wishes.  What is really best for the one who is dying, and for the others around? Given that death is unavoidable, what is the kindest thing to do? It might be holding on or it might be letting go.

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