These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
Juan, age 61: About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with ALS. My disease is progressive and fatal. I am confined to a wheelchair and am also having difficulty swallowing. At some point, I will no longer be able to breathe on my own. When that time comes, I wish to die peacefully. I do not want to be held captive by machines, nor do I want to put my family through the agonizing position of trying to decide when to remove life support.
Rex, age 57: My chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is very unpredictable. I understand that my illness is progressive and most likely will lead to my death. Even though I have frequent bouts of pneumonia, each episode has been treatable and I have been able to resume my life. I was on a ventilator with one of my previous bouts with pneumonia. In this case, the pneumonia was treated and I was weaned off the machine. I feel my life is worth living, even with COPD, and I am not willing to forgo aggressive life-sustaining medical care just because I have an incurable illness.
Grace, age 79: I have been living with heart disease for 20 years. In addition, I have problems with skin sores because of my diabetes. My doctor has talked to me about the possibility that my heart may stop at any time. He asked me about whether I want to have CPR done if my heart stops beating. We also talked about whether I want to be hooked up to machines to keep me alive. If my heart stops suddenly, I do not want 911 called. I definitely do not want to be connected to life support! When my time comes, I want to go quickly and calmly. I do not want to live my final days in a hospital hooked to machines. This seems too cold and undignified.
Yao, age 36: It was just about 18 months ago that I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have undergone surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, but my tumor has reappeared. My family and I have discussed the probability of my death, and we are ready to call 911 if an emergency arises. Aside from my brain tumor, my health is excellent. If I should choke or get in an accident, I still want emergency services called and CPR performed. I am even willing to be placed on a ventilator if my condition has any chance of improving.