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Ask Dr. Gott 12/07

End-of-life issues still heated

DEAR DR. GOTT: I need to reply to the nun's letter that appeared in my local paper. First, let me say that I am a Christian and believe in the sanctity of human life, but I have seen elderly patients that were being kept alive with feeding tubes, forced feedings and IVs because the family thought they were doing the "right thing" and insisted that these measures take place.
    My mother had Alzheimer's for 10 years. The last eight years were spent in a nursing home. I went to see her every night after I left work. I observed a lot of things in eight years, but one of the saddest was watching people being force fed with syringe-type feeders because the family insisted they not be allowed to refuse food! What that nun is advocating is cruel!
    My daughter has been a geriatric nurse for 15 years, and she says that families will insist that the patient at least be given water even though their kidneys have quit functioning. The skin will burst and ooze water. Is that what a loving God would want for his child? I think not!
    My 90-year-old mother-in-law is a saint if there ever was one, and she says, "Don't do one thing to me that would keep me from flying by the stars to meet my Lord." Maybe that nun would feel differently if she saw that 92-year-old man being force fed, slinging his head side to side trying to refuse it. Surely, she wouldn't demand that it continue.
    DEAR READER: I'm afraid that, for the moment, we — you, my readers and I — should put away our concerns about end-of-life issues. Perhaps at some future date the topic may be revisited, but for now I would like to move on. I believe that my views and those of my readers have been expressed adequately and, at the very least, we have had a sounding board, which is (once again) a question of faith and opinion versus reality.
    DEAR DR. GOTT: My husband is 61 and a partially retired professor. For the past two years, he has suffered with severe leg pain. He was not able to sleep at night and just walking across campus during the day was agony. He went to his internist several times, consulted a neurologist ("nothing wrong with you") and had several bouts of physical therapy, all with no relief. Then I recommended your soap remedy under the bed sheet. Overnight, the pain was gone. He now also carries a small bar of soap in each pants pocket and has experienced no pain during the day. Your remedy has turned a mysterious misery into just a bad memory. Thank you so much for restoring my husband's smile.
    DEAR READER: You're welcome. I was not aware that soap therapy has a place in treating exercise-induced leg cramps, so I welcome input from other readers who have found that daytime cramps can be prevented using this technique. And I still don't know why this works to relieve muscle spasms.

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