My father’s merciful death taught me a heart-rending truth: compassion matters more than the law

Apr 20, 2019 by

by Tom Utley, Mailonline:

On my father’s death certificate, it says he died of ‘carcinoma lymphoma with multiple metastases’. In layman’s language, that’s cancer of the lymphatic system, with secondary tumours on his lungs, liver and elsewhere.

Now, I’m no expert, but I reckon that this entry in the official records is not strictly true. If my guess is right, the immediate cause of my beloved father’s death was a large dose of a painkiller — some form of morphine, if I remember rightly — administered by his doctor as I sat by his hospital bedside shortly before he breathed his last.

I have not the slightest doubt that if he had been left untreated he would have died anyway, within a few hours at most. As it was, I’m pretty sure his heart stopped beating at the precise moment it did because of the drug, not the cancer.

I cannot stress strongly enough that I make no complaint about this. Though it is fair to assume his doctor was aware that the dosage she gave him was likely to shorten his life, her intention was clearly not to kill him but to ease his acute discomfort in the (mercifully short) terminal stage of his illness.

Indeed, I am grown-up enough to realise that countless people in the UK, probably several every week, die of painkillers administered by doctors. This has been true since the earliest days of the medical profession, and I believe no one with an ounce of compassion for a human being in extremis would have it any other way.

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