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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Unites In Decision To Forgo Treatment For Dying Mother

DEAR ABBY: My 67-year-old mother has vascular dementia and breast cancer. In accordance with her living will and many conversations we had before the dementia began, we (Mom, my sisters and I) have decided to forgo treatment. She has been widowed for 17 years; she watched her husband -- our father -- die from cancer. She lives in an excellent health care facility that will provide her with palliative care when the time is right.

My question is, how do we inform people (family and friends) of her diagnosis and of our treatment plan? Without knowing the whole story, without having seen her very recently, it seems everyone has an opinion on what we "should" do. How do we tell these people that, while we appreciate their concern, this is her decision without hurting their feelings and our relationships? -- FAMILY WITH A DILEMMA

DEAR DILEMMA: How do these unwanted advice givers know that you do not plan to subject your mother to treatments that would only prolong her decline? If you solicited their opinion, you made a mistake. If you didn't, then the last sentence of your letter -- if said kindly -- is an appropriate way to phrase the message.

Your mother's treatment plan is nobody's business but yours and your sisters'. If these are her wishes as stated in her advance directive for health care, then you should respect them. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of her trust.

Read more in: Health & Safety | Death | Family & Parenting | Friends & Neighbors