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Dying - to tell or not to tell

(35 Posts)
Nanban Sun 14-Apr-13 10:23:17

There has been a discussion on another website about whether estranged family members [sons or daughters] should be told that their parent is terminally ill.

I am of the very firm opinion that definitely not - it would be too cruel when a person is about to die, having missed so much, that the child turfs up for a deathbed reconciliation - it might make them feel better, but it makes leaving life a whole lot more difficult.

Nanban Mon 22-Apr-13 19:46:04

A bit similar to organ donation - the only person whose wishes count are the ones who are either dying, or who have registered as a donor and no relative/looker on should be able to change that decision. Obviously in the absence of either of those two criteria, the decision then becomes very tricky.

goldengirl Sun 21-Apr-13 11:54:02

What a difficult subject. The dying person, if given the choice, might wish to let the estranged person know of the situation; but what happens if the estranged person doesn't react, or reacts negatively? How would the dying person feel then? Whilst hopefully surrounded by those who do care, the thoughts might be more with the estranged person rather than those who are actively present and how would this make them feel? It's another case of the minority taking priority over the majority - though far, far more complex. The more I think about it the more difficult the scenario becomes.

Bags Sun 21-Apr-13 10:32:01

I'm trying to imagine how I would feel if someone who had abused me left expressing remorse until their death bed. I can't say I feel too good about that.

absent Sun 21-Apr-13 10:23:46

salamander In answer to your dilemma, the dying person can only request the estranged family member be told of the terminal illness. He or she cannot force that family member to respond.

salamander Sun 21-Apr-13 10:12:21

I think this is all about a question of choice, obvioulsy compliying and starting with with the dying persons wishes. I am sure in this senario great consideration would have been taken that there still maybe the possibility of rejection and that the 'estranged' may still not wish to rekindle contact under any circumstances. Only those directly involved know the truth of the estrangement - so i think better suited to making any informed decision themsleves.
From an alternate viewpoint and i'm certain does not apply to anyone here as everybody seems very kind and helpful, but life in general is not so clear cut. I have during my life worked with some very unpleasant people - what should be the choice of a dying person who abused and who faced with death is only then seeking peace? sad

Nanban Sat 20-Apr-13 13:33:19

You are a lovely lot x

kittylester Sat 20-Apr-13 13:14:22

(((hugs))) nanban

Bags Fri 19-Apr-13 21:20:24

nanban sad flowers

Nanban Fri 19-Apr-13 19:55:04

Of course it's sad - not the dying, but our living is sad. And if at the point of no return, no second chance, the person we love and miss so desperately, turfs up to say sorry - there can be no starting over but the person must still die knowing there was the chance of a better life after all. I see death as peace at last and freedom from sadness and even that must be taken away maybe at the last moment. No, definitely not to tell.

cathy Fri 19-Apr-13 16:07:13

I guess your right nanban that the person dying's wishing are a bit more important, it all just sounds a bit sad to me.

Bags Tue 16-Apr-13 06:25:09

Reading this thread with interest. It is not a problem I've had to consider. Looking at it entirely from the outside then, I think I agree with what nanban has said but, who knows, I might act differently if I were the terminally ill person estranged from an important family member. My gut feeling is that I would "play it by ear" at the time. Which means, in effect, that I don't think there is a right or a wrong approach: each person just has to do what they can cope with. And what you can cope with when terminally ill might not be the same as what you could cope with when fit and healthy.

Greatnan Tue 16-Apr-13 01:23:30

No need to apologise, absent, I am grateful for your post.
Johanna, my daughter suffers from paranoid delusions, including that I have stolen from her, when in fact helping her through the seven years it took to reach settlement of her medical negligence claim cost me tens of thousands of pounds. She has cut myself, her sister, her nephews and nieces and my sister out of her life, and has persuaded or forced three of her children to do the same. Only her eldest daughter, who lives with her partner and her two little girls in another village, maintains contact with us. I have never done anything to hurt my daughter or her children in any way - in fact, I gave up my lovely life in France to go back to England to help her and fought her case for her when she was too ill to do it herself.
Apart from my sadness and concern for her, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my life which is full and happy.

absent Mon 15-Apr-13 20:18:05

johanna Greatnan has posted about the sad story of one of her daughters who now has an addiction to prescription codeine as a result of dangerously botched surgery that is so intense it has seriously affected her view of reality. It is, as is so often the case, rather more complex a situation than it first seems from the outside.

Greatnan Sorry if I have jumped in. I had no intention to offend – I just know from what you have said over time that the situation is far from the sort of cut and dried picture that someone unfamiliar with the situation might think. I guess I was just being defensive on your behalf – as if that was necessary. Apologies.

johanna Mon 15-Apr-13 19:43:12

Greatnan , am puzzled by the first sentence of your post: " I would hate to die without my daughter having a chance to put right the things she has done."

Does that mean that you think whatever has happened in your lives is all down to her? That everything is her fault?

Because if you do really think so she will sense that .

Nanban Mon 15-Apr-13 19:33:16

Cathy - I think you have misunderstood - I think only the person who is dying has the right and whichever option they decide, absolutely no-one has the right to go tell.

On the point of my dying, I don't think I could bear seeing my son full of sorrow and regret - I would of course much prefer to see that while there is a chance of a better life - not a better death.

absent Mon 15-Apr-13 19:26:00

Greatnan That is the difference. A reconciliation with your daughter would gladden your heart and I devoutly hope that it will happen. A reconciliation with my sister will never happen – not because of how she has treated me but because I shall never forgive her for her cruelty to our mother who believed that the sun shone out of her and that she was the most special daughter in the world for almost all her [my mother's] life. She also wrote off absentdaughter and I'm not cool about that either.

Greatnan Mon 15-Apr-13 18:29:47

I would hate to die without my daughter having a chance to put right the things she has done. I love her, in spite of my hurt, and I would hate to think of her living a lifetime of regrets. I would ask her daughter to let her know if I had a terminal illness. (But she would probably think it was just a ploy to get her to see me).
My worry is that her drug addiction will mean I will outlive her - if I knew she was seriously ill I would fly from the ends of the earth to be near her (I will probably be living 12,000 miles away). I can only hope that my grand-daughter will keep me informed about her mother's health.

cathy Mon 15-Apr-13 14:14:59

I disagree nanban I think that the terminally ill person should be asked if he or she would like their son or daughter to knowthet they were terminally ill, and then if so, the option should then go to the son/daughter as to whether they wish to visit the ill parent.

Its about everyone getting a choice I think.

absent Sun 14-Apr-13 19:22:16

The member of my family who deliberately separated herself was once very close to me but abandoned me (and absentdaughter) some years ago. Were I diagnosed with a terminal illness I would be very angry if anyone else in my family contacted her about it. (I don't care if they are in touch otherwise.) She would probably ignore the information, but if she didn't, she would undoubtedly want to crow over my situation. So no, even if you think you are effecting some sort of reconciliation. No! No! No!

Nanban Sun 14-Apr-13 19:09:11

From the responses, I am so glad to have opened the subject up. I don't think any of us should decide for another - in our case our son has taken himself away and nothing we can do, say, try it seems will bring him back or let us back into his life. There is absolutely no way I would tell him of a terminal illness; for me that would be the point of no return.

If I were the person who had cut myself off, would I want my close people to tell him, I do not stand in those shoes, and surely that is the point.

Such a difficult, controversial subject and maybe something we should all decide on before the need arises, just like making a will.

So much pain, so many different attitudes - now where's my magic wand?

Nonu Sun 14-Apr-13 18:22:54

HOw do we know what people who estrange themselves from their family and the people who are dying want .

Perhaps finally , a chance to make up .

Who knows ? it is very good to exchange opinions with different people ,
who actually knows what is right or wrong ???

absent Sun 14-Apr-13 18:08:52

A family member living abroad is quite different from a family member who deliberately cuts him or herself off from the family wherever they live. I don't think they do have rights. All the rights belong to the person who is dying.

Nonu Sun 14-Apr-13 17:46:35

The only thing I think is that surely it is right to tell someone their parent is dying , it can be taken on from there .

My cousin many years ago lived in Hong Kong , My Aunt died very suddenly , the two other cousins did not tell her Mum was so seriosly ill, so she had no chance to get back to the UK.

Next thing they had buried Aunty with no consultation . It was quite heartbreaking all round .

Ella46 Sun 14-Apr-13 17:20:49

I would want to make my own decision,whether I was the person dying or the estranged one.
I don't want to be treated like an idiot just because I'm dying, unless of course, I have advanced dementia.

Gorki Sun 14-Apr-13 15:55:40

I agree with absent. There seems very little point in reconciliation at such a late time unless the dying person really, really wants it. Sometimes people want to ask for forgiveness and in this case it would be important to meet but not otherwise. The passing on of information is quite another thing.The estranged family member deserves to be told but whether they should visit or not is a family decision.