DEAR ABBY: My 63-year-old mother has recently been diagnosed with stage-4 metastatic lung cancer. Even prior to her diagnosis she was a negative and depressed person. She has been a smoker, drinker and backseat driver for almost 50 years.
She has undergone intense radiation but is refusing to take her chemo pill. In her words, why should she prolong her life by another year, especially if it causes more side effects and won't cure her? My twin and I are her only children. She has no significant life partner, and there are no grandkids.
While I have kept in steady contact and maintained relations with her even during all our bad times, my brother has taken an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. We both live a two- or three-hour distance away from Mom. The problem now is, my brother wants her to persevere through all the doctors' treatments, while I have accepted her decision to essentially let go. How can I help him come to terms with Mom's decision, and do you recommend any resources? -- SON/BROTHER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SON/BROTHER: I firmly believe in a person's right to make their own decision when it comes to continuing or discontinuing treatment for a terminal illness. If your mother feels the chemotherapy has side effects that are too debilitating to tolerate, it should be her choice whether to discontinue them rather than the preference of your brother. If your mother prefers palliative or hospice care, she is entitled to have it, and she should discuss it with her doctor, who can see that she receives it.
Two excellent books will provide the information you are seeking, and more. Read them and share them with your brother. Both include the topic of physician-assisted aid in dying.
The first, titled "Finish Strong," is written by Barbara Coombs Lee, the founder of Compassion and Choices, an organization to which I have been a longtime contributor. For free resources regarding your mom's decision, visit www.compassionandchoices.org.
The second book, authored by Diane Rehm, who hosted "The Diane Rehm Show" on NPR from 1979 to 2016, is titled "When My Time Comes" and will be followed by a documentary to be aired in the spring of 2021 on PBS.