Must we help/save the person despite his/her will?

I recently called a sister of a new patient to check how the patient had been doing with the medicine and whether his state had improved, and came to know that the patient hung himself that very morning.

I’m not sure if I’m too sensitive, but I’ve received this kind of news considerably frequent in my job, the sister just didn’t sound sorrow (of course some people hide their emotions very well). In fact she later said that it was a relief not just for the patient, but also for the family.

The patient has 4 siblings who are all married with children. Their parents have passed away for few years. He was the only single and he lived on his own. Though the sister went to see him thrice per day, bringing him food and taking care of him. He had suffered from depression for many years, also done ECT quite a few times. The sister always did her best to help him. She said some siblings had given up on him, but she wouldn’t.

Now that he is gone, she just felt a weight off her shoulders. Then she started to wonder if she had done wrong all these years.

If it meant suffer to live longer, do you still want him to live longer? Just because people all should live as long as they can? Or just because you think it’s your duty to help him to live longer? So you would feel better? So you wouldn’t be blamed for not helping him if something happened? You could say that you tried your best? So you go against the person’s will (partially the illness), you save him no matter what?

It is a bit similar to those family members of terminally ill patient who decide and some even beg the doctors to save the patients, but when you really check, a lot of those sufferers would rather leave in peace, stop the pain and the carers’ suffer, than going through all those operations and chemicals and injections and medication and machines, while at the end still leave, in pain and with holes all over the body.

So what’s considered as selfish act here? And what’s considered right? Who can decide it? Who is the one to make the decision?

Related read: Can we allow a severely depressed patient to make the decision?

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