the current average life expectancy in malaysia is 74. (71 for men & 76 for women) (read here)
so any day lived in health beyond that can be considered a bonus. some call this having a long life; as an avid fan of Air Crash Investigation on Nat Geo channel, i cynically call it Running On Empty.
this 86 year-old woman was brought back to Casualty by her family, just 3 days after she had been discharged. she has heart disease, a previous stroke, was bedridden & had just recovered from pneumonia, having spent 3 weeks in hospital, 1 week of which in ICU.
in Casualty, she was gasping & was barely conscious. i explained to the family that she was very ill & recovery would be very unlikely, given her current & past medical problems. however, the family was firm that i should do the necessary for the her.
i wished they had never said that.
because unfortunately, "do the necessary" here means putting in a breathing tube into her windpipe, attempting many times to insert a cannula into a vein but succeeding only once because she had dainty blood vessels. in the end, we had to proceed with CPR because her heart had stopped. in the process, we used over 20 ampoules of medicine & broke a couple of ribs from the vigourous compression on her frail chest.
all in vain.
i wished they had never given the instruction "do the necessary" because i knew she was already running on empty but i was duty-bound to provide a service i had been trained to do.
i wished they had said 3 other words instead, like maybe "make her comfortable" or "make it painless". masterly inactivity would have provided a more dignified end to a long life.
may her soul rest in peace.