Ethical Dilemma: How Far To Take a Medical Proxy

BlogHer Original Post

Thanks so much for your wonderful responses to the previous ethical dilemma in this series. You've weighed in on clandestine affairs, whether or not to help a neighbor's child, how to handle a clerk's error, and what to do about a thieving co-worker. Today's dilemma offers yet another challenge.

You have a cousin who has no next of kin except for you. Because of that, he has recently made you his health care proxy "just in case." Before getting all the documents signed and notarized, including a living will, you went out for lunch. It gave you both a chance to discuss the decisions he would like made by you should he ever be unable to make them for himself.

For example, he did want a "Do Not Resuscitate" order in his records, but only if resuscitating him would be to a bad state. "If I get a heart attack while walking down the street, for heaven's sake, DO CPR! " he said.

"Oh, YUCK, for that I have to kiss you? There better be a volunteer around!" you replied. You both laughed at that. Steve is as close to you as a brother, and there has always been a great interplay between you.

The very thought of ever losing him hurts. So, you both spark up the conversation with other things. After all, you thought, he is in his 40's, there is no need to get a decision from him on all the details right away. You did discuss his definite opinion about not wanting his life continued by elaborate machinery, or if he is in a condition where there is no hope for a meaningful recovery.

But when you started to talk about organ donation, he paused. "You know, I'm actually undecided about that -- I can see that it is important, but it does give me the creeps. I'm not sure I am ready to talk about being sliced and diced up. That we can talk about later."

Well, later never came. A few months passed, and your cousin was in a bad car accident and you needed to make a decision about taking him off life support. That decision was clear. It was very hard, but it was clear.

At that point, his doctor entered the room and told you that they have a patient that could use his heart. Will you agree to an organ donation?

You know what you would do in that case, but you never had a clear message from Steve, except that the thought "gave him the creeps."

What would you do?

Would your decision be different if the request was made for multiple organs?

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool


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