A Dying Father's Last Father's Day
"Happy Father's Day to my dad. He was a pro baseball player, basketball player and one the top amateur golfers in the country. He was a true bad-ass. He still is, even at 90 when he is no longer sure if I'm his brother or his son. The memory may go, but the bad-ass lingers on."
Yesterday was Father’s Day. It will almost certainly be last time I celebrate that day with my Father. He is 91, suffers from dementia and has an infection that the doctors can’t seem to get rid of. He also has pneumonia. When I saw him on Saturday he could barely communicate, but still managed to recognize me and say my name. Only a few weeks before, he was as verbal and cantankerous as ever, and still enjoyed a good burger, now and again. He’d been suffering dementia for at least two years, but the disease, thankfully, seemed to be getting no worse. The pneumonia was minor, too. As was the infection. So, what had changed?
He was admitted to the hospital for the infection. That was the real change. From that point, he went downhill like a stone.
You see, the doctors had determined that it was his time to die. “What quality of life can he possibly have?” the doctor said to my wife and I on Saturday. This seemed reasonable, looking at him as he laid in the hospital bed, unable to eat and barely able to swallow. From that perspective, I could understand the doctor's prognosis. There’s just one problem, the fact that he was heavily sedated with oxytocin explained his deeply drugged state. There was another problem, too. He had no real pain, so why, sedate him with such a heavy drug. His breathing, although labored, was primarily labored because of the drug, not his pneumonia. And the infection wasn’t even mentioned as a problem.
It was clear, they weren’t even trying to deal with his actual health issues. They were making him “Comfortable” in the last stages of his life, and they were inducing his death by denying him food and drugging him so heavily that his body would eventually fail under the strain. He hadn’t eaten for three days because he couldn’t eat, not in his present drugged-up state. We immediately told the doctors and nurses to take him off the Oxycontin and feed him. Within 24 hours he was his old self, animated, hungry and alert, even if his powers of recognition were still diminished by his dementia, it was no worse than before.
What was really disturbing was the doctor, who was almost disdainful that we would want to keep this old shell of a man alive, instead of killing him. Who were we to question him, a doctor, a man of science, who had spent all of a few minutes with him, checking his chart twice a day? What the doctor saw, lying inert in the bed, was his own handiwork, and looking no further pronounced a death sentence for my father. He never saw the animated old man, still throwing punches at the air when pushed, eating and enjoying something as simple as a burger and fries. He saw a limp, dying old man, who was limp and dying because of the doctor, who had prescribed death as a cure. Thereby saving us from any more inconvenience.
If my family and I have any say in the matter, my father will survive. Maybe even make another Father’s Day. And, when he goes, it will be of natural causes as his body shuts down on its own. Not, as the result of what could be called a humane form of murder. Making it all the more heinous, because it is an oxymoron that exists to assuage the conscience of a society that increasingly views human beings as a problem. Kill the infants. Kill the old. That is the prescription of a society that has squandered its wealth and must save wherever and however it can . All I can say is “Not my father. And not in my country.”