Ariel Sharon, the 11th prime minister of Israel, died Jan. 11 after spending eight years in a coma on life support. Gilad Sharon proudly asserted that his father was a fighter until the end, outlasting doctors’ expectations by two weeks. This final act, he implied, embodied Sharon’s tendency to defy expectations, whether military or political, which were not to his liking. And defying death, even by two weeks, purportedly represented his core values.

I am not surprised that Sharon’s youngest son may have extrapolated from his fighting past that he would want to be kept alive until all life had completely drained from his body. But extrapolation is a dangerous tool when it comes to dying. A decision that might have been made in health may bring terrible suffering in death.

Making medical decisions for a loved one who is no longer able to speak for himself is very common and often very complex. Most people have never spoken to their families about their own preferences regarding death, and so surrogate decision makers are left without explicit instructions from the person who matters the most. Without clarity, surrogates must do their best to conjure the patient into the conversation using snippets of their personality, past conversations and attitudes. (…) Read Full Article Here

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