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Should a dying person's wishes always be honoured?

(139 Posts)
dollyjo Tue 08-Jan-19 11:01:47

Within the last month a very close relative (late 60's) visited me and told me of his terminal illness. This person is a loner and many years ago moved away and discontinued his contact with any family members - including his children - but retained a good relationship with me
I don't think it is appropriate to go into further detail.
He instructed me to inform no-one in the family of his illness and impending death. This has caused enormous problems for me. M health has suffered worrying about him but also worrying how the family will react when they discover I have kept this secret.
I think they should be told then what they do with the information is up to them.
He has instructed me to tell no-one in the family and because I told him of my opinion that at least his children should be told, he has now severed all contact with me.
What would you do if you were in this awful situation?

jusnoneed Tue 08-Jan-19 11:07:24

Do as he asks. If he has had no contact with them through choice, his wishes should be acted upon.

humptydumpty Tue 08-Jan-19 11:08:04

I think you should respect his wishes, dollyjo, and tell him so, as it seems you were the only person close to him and he may need your support.

MissAdventure Tue 08-Jan-19 11:08:27

I would honour his wishes, as he obviously feels very strongly about it.

sodapop Tue 08-Jan-19 11:10:57

I think you should respect his wishes
Dollyjo however you may feel about this estrangement it is your friend's decision to make. Perhaps you could make contact again and say that whilst you are not comfortable with his decision you will respect it. At least then he will have you to support him. It is a very difficult situation I agree.

sodapop Tue 08-Jan-19 11:11:36

Sorry your relative, not friend

Anniebach Tue 08-Jan-19 11:14:25

As someone who has asked my younger daughter that my sisters and extended family are not to be informed should I be hospitalised or die I think you should honour this persons wishes

Willynilly Tue 08-Jan-19 11:16:38

Would he put it in a letter that you could keep for the future when it may become an issue for you?

Esspee Tue 08-Jan-19 11:20:41

I cannot imagine why you consider that you are in an awful situation.
Your relative has confided in you and you have no business in interfering with their wishes.

MawBroon Tue 08-Jan-19 11:22:42

I am afraid you have to even if your own instinct is to do otherwise.
What a difficult position, but do put his wishes first. He has his reasons and they must count.

loopylou Tue 08-Jan-19 11:46:01

However unreasonable it may seem to you I guess that you have to respect his wishes and act accordingly.
Are you in contact with his children or could you easily avoid having to be in this position?
I heard of someone who requested an impossible to arrange funeral and the executors did the best compromise they could so perhaps avoiding contact might be possible?

Gagagran Tue 08-Jan-19 12:06:34

I think you should respect his wishes too. He trusted you enough to tell you that is what he wanted and thought that you would respect that. I would write and tell him that you have thought further about it and will abide by his request.

My elder sister died in the the middle of changing her will. She was excluding me and two of our other siblings and adding in our place, three nieces (one of them ny daughter)
Her will was being prepared and was sent to her for signature but did not arrive until the day after she suddenly died. So the original will stood.

I decided that I should respect her wishes and I divided my bequest between the three nieces as she intended. The other two affected siblings did not. They kept their bequests.

I believe that I did the right thing and I hope that you decide that you should do that too.

Luckygirl Tue 08-Jan-19 12:18:26

Respect his wishes - no question.

cornergran Tue 08-Jan-19 12:29:03

Yes, hard though it may feel do respect his wishes. Would you feel better if contact was reinstated between you? If so why not send a card and write that your response was instinctive and now you have thought about it you will respect his wishes and would value contact again. If nothing else you will put his mind at rest.

NanaandGrampy Tue 08-Jan-19 12:49:46

I agree with the other posters - respect his wishes. In my opinion he was wrong to burden you with this BUT it is still his secret to be kept as he wished.

Caledonai14 Tue 08-Jan-19 12:53:45

I think the person he should have told was his solicitor and Willynilly is correct, he could write you a letter confirming that he does not want anyone else told. Maybe he was hoping for one trusted person to accompany him to medical appointments or to be able to offload to on what will be an increasingly lonely journey? If that is so, he could have offered confidentiality both ways so that you are not left with fallout. He may simply be worried about losing control of his own life if his children push him to undergo medical procedures at a stage when he has had enough. It is possibly a mistake to keep the children in the dark to the end and you were right to point that out, but reading your post again I see he has already cut himself off from the children, which is sad but his business and I feel strongly you will try your best to help him if he will let you back in. There is probably a good reason why he has kept faith with you particularly. All the best to you with this delicate situation.

eazybee Tue 08-Jan-19 13:02:29

A very sad situation; presumably as this man is a close relative his family are your relatives too. It is a dreadful burden to impose on anyone, and he should not ask you to deal with the consequences of his personal animosities, whatever the circumstances.
As he has instructed you not to contact them, you have no choice but to follow his wishes, but it has put you in an unpleasant situation which is not of your making. Following his death, would there be any need for you to inform his family that he ordered you to withhold information about his illness? Could you feign ignorance about the situation?
It sounds like someone attempting to continue a family feud from the grave.

tanith Tue 08-Jan-19 13:14:25

I was in this position a year ago I felt I had to respect her wishes but I did speak to staff looking after her and her doctor made a point of having a conversation with her about contacting her daughter and was also told that on no account were they to inform her. Her daughter was told about that discussion after she died.

Willynilly Tue 08-Jan-19 13:26:34

I too speak from experience. It should be a position of mutual respect. You respect his wishes by keeping a confidence, and he respects that you may have difficulties down the line by putting it in writing.

Caledonai14 Tue 08-Jan-19 13:28:40

That was a wise move Tanith.

GrannyGravy13 Tue 08-Jan-19 13:32:44

Respect their wishes please.

I would also ask them to write a letter stating their wishes, which in the event of their death and any friction within the extended family you have the letter as evidence of their wishes.

HildaW Tue 08-Jan-19 13:43:33

eazybee - makes a very valid point and I do recognise the power of a controlling person who wants to control once they are no longer around. It happened in our family and the pain and distress of being actively denied a chance to say farewell no matter how unpleasant that person had been in life can be very damaging. Its not so much we want to confront them on their death bed...just the knowledge that we were denied it that hurts.
You have been placed in a really nasty position especially as you must know these relatives and have an inkling as to how they may respond when the news gets through.
Perhaps you could put in writing the gist of the conversation you had with this person together with your misgivings. If at a later date they can see that you tried to help the situation it will help the healing even if not at the time. Later when things calm down people can see that you were troubled and tried to do your best for the other people involved.
You cannot go against this person's wishes but you can put pen to paper now and record your misgivings and give you condolences and let them know you tried.

sweetpea Tue 08-Jan-19 13:52:32

I have a similar dilemma. My brother, older by two years, has been divorced for many years, has two sons and a GC living in the US with whom he has sporadic contact. He has few friends, merely acquaintances, and has mentioned several times in the past that he wants no-one at his funeral, including family. Do I respect his wishes? Have sought to reason with him but I know if I go on about it he will cease to have any contact with me, until he is ready.

tanith Tue 08-Jan-19 14:08:31

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to inform his children after he has died and then it’s their decision to attend his funeral or not.

MissAdventure Tue 08-Jan-19 14:14:18

If its reasonable to respect someone's wishes when they're well, the same goes for their death.
It is their death, nobody elses.. they should be able to arrange things how they want to.