Can We Force People to Live?

Great Grandpa with Rhonda's grandchildren, Emma 8, Lily 16 months, and Maddie.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of dealing with my father’s health problems and the inability of doctor’s to reach a conclusive diagnosis. He has experienced seizures, weakness, fatigue and loss of appetite.

After many diagnostic tests and uncomfortable procedures, he was finally diagnosed with a meningioma, which is basically a benign brain tumor. It’s possible that the tumor has been there for a long time and never caused problems until now. But with symptoms and increased pressure on the brain, treatment becomes more important to avoid accidents, falls, or worse.

New anti-seizure medications are helping him some, but the weakness, fatigue and loss of appetite don’t seem to improve. It’s possible that additional testing may offer more options for care, including surgery or other procedures.

Doctors have few answers and the healthcare system in rural southwest Virginia is not optimal. So, my two brothers and two sisters find ourselves in a dilemma wondering about the best course of action – and not truly understanding our role in “forcing” him to do anything.

As for my dad, he says, “I’m 85 years old and I’m not going to do anything I don’t have to do. As long as I can live comfortably and not cause too many problems for anyone else, then I’m okay. I’m not going to have surgery or any life-saving treatments, so why do I need to keep going through tests?”

Enough said dad.

At 85 years old, is his health status something we are resigned to “expect” and accept?

Or is there more we should force him to do?

If I make it until I’m 85 years old, I’m not sure I’ll put myself through a string of procedures, treatments, surgeries, and other medical situations that “just might” add a couple of years, or months, or days to my life while decreasing the quality of my days. After all, a lot of living and quality of life are sacrificed while all of this medical mumbo jumbo is going on.

Somewhere along the line, something has to be said for the quality of life. And the personal wishes of the individual.

No matter what happens with Obamacare, medical technology advancements, improvements in prolonging life, and healthcare reform, patients are still individual human beings with feelings, thoughts and personal desires. And they have families who love them and will be there to care for them no matter what decisions they make.

I’m not sure where we’ll go next with my dad’s care – but I know one thing for sure. I will respect his decisions and how he wants to be treated as a person. No amount of healthcare in the world can take the place of personal choice for care options.

And I’ll be there for my dad, no matter what he needs. That’s what family is all about.

Rhonda Day, Freelance Writer
Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.


  1. Rhonda,
    You are dead on. I work in the health care field and I see this happening daily. It is so ridiculous to watch families put their loved ones that are up in age through a battery of tests. I see it everyday and I see their loved one laying in the bed with no quality. What's worse is that I've even seen situations where the person has said no, but the family has pushed. We need to learn to respect each other including our decisions to not seek treatment. Good for you for respecting your fathers wishes and most importantly… good for him for standing up for himself and living life the way he wants to!!!

  2. Thank you for the affirmation. It is a difficult choice when it comes to making health care decisions. I applaud you for dedicating your life to helping others.

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