Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy Wanted a Good Death

A great NY Times piece about the way Ted Kennedy handled planning for his death—from his cancer treatment, to getting his advance directives in order, to spending his last nights eating ice cream and watching James Bond movies with his wife Vicki. 

I'm happy Kennedy had the time and the foresight to plan his last days like this, and I hope others will think a little about doing the same when their time comes when they read this story. 

4 comments:

hospicephysician said...

Your right, I like the message that his life and death portrayed. Even though this may sound morbid, I'm glad that he died after Farah Fawcett only because I was hoping that she would have exited her life gracefully instead of portraying to millions how she "battled" cancer to the very end.

Jessica Knapp said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree that Kennedy exited gracefully, and he seemed to make some real definite decisions about how to spend his last days. And yes, not every public figure does the same, unfortunately. But, I guess none of us knows how we'll act until we're there.

Anonymous said...

I have a rather different perspective on Senator Kennedy's death. While it is possible that the family chose to keep private the various details about professionals who cared for him and his family in the final days, weeks and months - - there seems to have been nothing in the press about the role of hospice or palliative medicine professionals having been engaged. Perhaps his primary careproviders are so well trained in end-of-life care that such consultations were deemed unnecessary. I actually doubt it. Like so many families, it seems more likely that they thought they "hadn't reached that point yet". Waiting "too late" is the rule, rather than the exception in most American families when it comes to hospice care.

Senator Kennedy could have been a "poster child" for the benefits of skilled and professional hospice care. The choices that he and his family made amount to a direct snub.

And the NYTimes article by Mr. Leibovitch is only one angle covered by the newspaper. I have never fully understood which articles allow comments by readers and which do not. This article did not allow comments; the "blog space" in the paper titled "ROOM FOR DEBATE" does, and my comments on the absent reporting of any hospice care to Senator Kennedy or his family appears here: http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/kennedys-war-on-cancer-and-our-own/?apage=3#comment-143573

Jessica Knapp said...

That's an excellent point, and very fair, anonymous. This article does open the door to pointing out planning for a death you want, but there isn't a discussion of actual palliative care. And your point is well taken. We do not know the specifics of Kennedy's care, but someone with terminal brain cancer may very well have transitioned to hospice or comfort-only care at some point. He could have used his high-profile to become a spokesperson for that setting.

He did make himself a spokesperson for epilepsy when he first began having seizures due to his cancer, and that is a condition that has not had many spokespeople, perhaps because of the stigmas that have been unfairly attached to it for many years.

As far as which articles at the New York Times are allowed comments and which are not, if you can figure out their editorial decisions, please let me know, because I have no idea either.