Many seniors are following the fast-changing developments over health care reform that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s death has brought. The debate over end-of-life care in particular hit a nerve with 65-year-old Elke Baum of Rockland.


 

 

Dr. Gary Gibbons, president of Quincy Medical Center. Click center arrow to turn on and off.

The motorcade bearing the body of Sen. Edward Kennedy had just passed under the Washington Street overpass in Braintree. As the crowd of several hundred quickly dispersed, Nancy Lawton was one of the last to slowly walk away.

A former campaign worker for Jack Kennedy in Quincy, Lawton, 70, was tearful about the loss.

“I can’t tell you what it means to me, especially with the whole health care situation,” she said. “I’m taking all sorts of medicines I can’t afford, and I’m just so hopeful we’ll be able to get this straightened out – what he started.

“I hope people think about what he did and put some serious thought in this health care issue, because that was his life’s work.”

Many seniors are following the fast-changing developments over health care reform that Kennedy’s death has brought. The debate over end-of-life care in particular hits a nerve with 65-year-old Elke Baum of Rockland.

Baum read last week’s column about the nun who wants to have control over the final stages of her life, with no extraordinary measures.

“I am only 65 years old and I fear living too long,” Baum e-mailed.

She said she took care of her father when he had Alzheimer’s disease “and then lung cancer, which mercifully speeded up the process. They wanted to operate when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and, thank God, I had the power to say, ‘No.’ He died peacefully at the age of 82 in my spare bedroom, with the family holding his hands ...

“Six months after his death, my mother had a major stroke and I was told they wanted to operate. Again, I said, ‘No.’ Until her death five years later, she had more strokes and dementia. She also died in my spare bedroom at the age of 86, having had the family visit with her.

“I do not expect my children to take care of me when my time comes, so I am already looking into options for myself. Please thank the wonderful nun for me, because she voiced the same plan I have for myself.”

Baum has signed a health care proxy and living will instructing her son and daughter, in their 30s, about her wishes. Every year, she gives them a notarized list of her instructions “so no one can say that the copy I gave them previously was out of date.”

Her instructions: “I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means and medical technology. I do not wish to have feeding tubes, a ventilator, aggressive surgery. I want to pass naturally with a little morphine to ease my way. I don’t believe God meant for us to live like vegetables just because there is technology to extend life.”

She is at peace with her decisions and expects her family to abide by them.

Health care reform could make that easier to do.

Reach Sue Scheible at sscheible@ledger.com, 617-786-7044, or The Patriot Ledger, P.O. Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159. Read her Good Age blog on our Web site