Ann is a seventy-seven-year-old grandmother. She has one daughter and three grandchildren. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with moderately advanced Alzheimer’s disease, which causes her to have periods of confusion, frustration, anger, and obsessive thinking. When speaking, she is uncertain and her speech patterns are choppy. Before her mental deterioration, Ann was a woman of love, intelligence, and patience. Realizing they were getting older, she and her husband, Frank, discussed their wishes should anything happen to them. She told Frank that if there was no chance of survival, she would not want to be hooked to a breathing machine. They never got around to filling any papers.
Frank is a sweet and sensitive man. His wife’s state frightens him. Ann’s love for him has been the focus of his life for sixty years. His urgent desire for the best care for Ann shows his devotion and love. Their daughter, Sarah, is a businesswoman. She is a hard worker and a good mother. She is forty-five, successful, and intelligent. Although she loves her parents dearly, she lives ten hours away. She regrets not seeing much of them, especially recently. Frank feels his role is to take care of Ann. He has spent the past year with her, watching after her, cooking for her, cleaning the home, and witnessing her deterioration. Finally, Ann is unable to walk alone safely and he finds he must have her admitted to a long-term care facility. He calls Sarah to come and help with the arrangements. After having Ann admitted to a local nursing home, both Frank and Sarah remember the pleading look in Ann’s eyes as they walk away.
After three weeks in the nursing home, Ann starts to cough and run a fever. She is seen by doctors and diagnosed as having pneumonia. She is transferred to a local hospital, where she is given intravenous antibiotics. Although the progress of her pneumonia is halted by the antibiotics, she stops talking and refuses to eat. The physician calls Frank to insert a feeding tube. Frank calls Sarah to ask what to do. They wonder, Is a feeding tube equivalent to a breathing machine? Would it be possible to allow Ann to lie there and die of starvation? Is that murder? What would she want? What is the right thing to do? (Burkhardt & Nathaniel, 2008).
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