LETTER – Changes needed to Island Health’s end of life policy

Dear editor,

Island Health’s end of life policy could kill patients not wanting to die. I was chillingly made aware of this while going through a stress test at Comox Valley Hospital last fall. I was taken aback when the cardiologist asked me if I wanted to be resuscitated. What did he mean? He said if I was in an accident did I want to be revived? I’m 56 years old, and in good physical health overall, so I think this conversation was inappropriate.

I was also perturbed to see him type my response into the hospital database. I was even more so when the computer was left on in the hallway – with my responses in plain sight – while I underwent my stress test in another room. I did not feel that my information was safe.

Too many things can go wrong when data like this is casually entered into a computer. It takes time and reflection for someone to decide what their advanced care wishes are. Asking them that question on the spot makes them more likely to give the wrong answer. The patient could be confused, drunk, or deaf. If they’re feeling suicidal they could also respond in the negative.

What if the doctor doesn’t understand the patient? Or someone changes the answer at a later date?

I understand why someone with osteoporosis and a heart condition might not want to be revived. It would be extremely painful for them to suffer from broken ribs the last few days of their life because someone gave them CPR. However, it is better to err on the side of caution so that people who want medical care aren’t being left to die.

As it now stands, Island Health’s advanced care planning procedures used are too loose and don’t have enough safeguards. More care needs to be taken to make sure patients’ wishes are understood, that they are appropriate, and they are accurately recorded and can’t be changed by others.

I know I don’t feel safe expressing my “advanced care” wishes under the current policy.

Charlotte Ostrowski,

Courtenay

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