An 87-year-old man named Herb Lee went out to eat and may have gotten something bad. He became extremely ill and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Lee had previously watched his wife suffer from cancer. He was determined that he did not want to suffer like she did.
Lee had made it clear to his family that should he ever become seriously ill, he did not want any efforts made to prolong his life. He did not want respirators or feeding tubes. He did not want to be resuscitated.
However, that put the medical staff in a bad situation, since they could only give Lee half treatments that left him suffering in great pain.
The doctor who eventually had to make the decision about what to do, was Lee's grandson-in-law. He wrote about the experience in the Washington Post article titled "I saved an old man's life. He didn't want it."
Ultimately, the grandson-in-law decided to do what was necessary to save Lee's life, so he would not linger in great pain. Lee lived a normal life for several years after that and was able to enjoy many family events.
The grandson-in-law eventually asked Lee if, in hindsight, he would want his life saved if he had to do it all over again.
Lee said that he would not. An advanced directive for healthcare is designed to prevent these very dilemmas when they occur.
There are no right answers about what should be done in these types of situations. Families and doctors should take into consideration the wishes of elderly patients. However, that does not always settle the matter.
Reference: Washington Post (July 29, 2017) "I saved an old man's life. He didn't want it."