Thanks for your reply. Interesting that the word "dignity" comes up so early in your posting, as dignity is what usually disappears in those final weeks it seems. One problem I think is to continue the identity between the physical body and the 'self'. I am not religious but do have a spiritual side. I do think there is a 'big other' and that all current religions have it wrong (though they once may have had it right at their inception). For most of our lives, our containers and ourselves are not worth differentiating. But at death, the empty container stays behind and the essence of the person is/goes elsewhere. So when I’m around someone dying, I’m OK with their container deteriorating before my eyes. I care about the person within- are they OK, suffering, need to say something or are eager to leave their container. If I’m good to the essential person even while the container is crumbling before my eyes, I feel I’m doing all the good I can.
Slow is right. In 1970 when my peers were attending med school, I complained modern medical education was deficient in preventive medicine, sexuality and nutrition. They agreed but were quick to say things were changing and that in a few years these complaints would be obsolete and moot. They were 100% wrong.
As for POA, most don’t have one regarding anything, and our culture of avoiding any consideration of, discussion over, or examination of the subject of death and final things prevents us from growing out of our Medieval mindset towards life and death. You can’t make plans about anything you aren’t even facing squarely right now. Start with most people that death is inevitable, it’s part of life, it’s best prepared for vs. having it pop up unpreparedly, etc., and they will run away and try to never speak with you again, you SOB downer, you. You are not helping them to prepare for something so they can face it better with the result less suffering all around- no, you are a Debby Downer bringing up unnecessarily negative topics inappropriate for polite society and should shut the f*** up. I think individuals are smartening up regarding this, but there is no wide social movement coming up I can see. We each must pursue an enlightened approach to this vital topic in our own way and not depend on our society to pitch in and help.
Finally, I heartily agree about the need to be in step with whomever your doctor is. It’s your body, your disease, your cancer, your life- not theirs. If they aren’t acting as your assistant, you need to find someone who will be. I am lucky to be surrounded by medically competent and big-hearted docs, and I wish everyone had access to caregivers of their quality.