Don’t keep me alive on life support; I don’t want to be a vegetable.”

When you ask most people how they want to die, they say, “just don’t keep me alive on life support; I don’t want to be a vegetable.” Vegetables are offended. (And it’s a tactless term for an unconscious human who is likely to never wake up again.) I have three words for you: Too much TV.

Life support equipment gets a bad rap.

It’s not what it is; it’s when it is — that makes the critical difference between whether it’s an ally or foe. Not understanding this can stop an otherwise normal, sane, responsible person from taking critical steps to protect themselves when they are really vulnerable.

When we don’t want to talk about what could happen — when we’re approaching death, chances are much higher we will end up with a regrettable mess, if there’s an emergency. Regrettable, because you could have done something about it. Mess, because without clear direction to the contrary, the goal of medicine is to keep you alive at all costs, which will probably involve… life support equipment.

It’s almost magic that we have machines that can help someone breathe until they can breathe on their own again. It’s amazing that we can restart hearts if they stop, although the truth is, it’s fraught with terrible risks and doesn’t work like it does on TV. All of these technologies are miracles when they are used to help people either recover or sustain a quality of life that they find acceptable, at least for a while. It’s just that when you use them on a body that is trying to die, they can be useless and painful.

In conclusion…

There is no one bright line that applies to everyone all the time. As we change, we find things we thought were unacceptable are now OK, and things we never anticipated may be unbearable. At the right time, your body might know that all outside interventions are distractions to the quieting process you are in. And at the right time, a little oxygen might be a godsend, even if it’s being supplied to you by a machine.

Talk about it.

Kim Mooney, founder of Practically Dying offers a variety of services from private coaching to speaking engagements in corporate settings. Contact Practically Dying to learn more about Kim’s offerings.

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