Personal Views

My mother's tormented death

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6971.67 (Published 07 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:67

I used to be a member of one of the caring professions—an intensive care nurse. I saw many hurt people, both patients and relatives, and tried to alleviate their suffering as best I could within a multidisciplinary team. Almost a year ago my mother needed this sort of intensive care, but for five tortured hours on a teaching hospital ward she did not receive it. I saw her in the last 45 minutes of her conscious life. She had been in sudden devastating left ventricular failure since 415 am but had not responded to any treatment. She was beyond exhaustion, her breathing sounded like coffee percolating, her lips were the colour of beetroot, her skin grey, her eyes sunken and pleading, her distress heart rending, her human dignity lost. She was drowning painfully and slowly. I still see her tormented face every …

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