Life Span Issues and End-of-Life Decision Making

Authored by: Andrea C. Walker

Handbook of Thanatology

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9781138430815
eBook ISBN: 9780203767306
Adobe ISBN: 9781136726507


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Consider the experience of a teenager with acute lymphoma that is unresponsive to any treatment, with a prognosis of death in the next 2 weeks, being approached by her staff nurse about where she would like to spend the rest of her days. On the other hand, imagine a healthy widower of 94 years with several children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, approached by his physician about end-of-life choices should an accident or unexpected illness occur, robbing him of his capacity to make decisions at that time. Finally, ponder the 40-year-old female diagnosed with Level 3 breast cancer, recommended treatment of biweekly chemotherapy, whose prognosis is unknown. The experiences of these individuals vary dramatically, as likely will their responses to end-of-life choices. A large part of the difference in responses relates to each individual’s developmental place in the span of life.

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