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Care in the final days - an important lesson for all

Donna Williams holds her husband Ken Williams, 67, hand two days before he died at a hospice in Santa Barbara, Calif. on June 10.
Donna Williams holds her husband Ken Williams, 67, hand two days before he died at a hospice in Santa Barbara, Calif. on June 10. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Marian Grant’s piece (“Dying badly despite all my efforts,” Aug. 31), detailing her mother's care at her end of life reminds us of a universal truth. The last days and hours of a loved one’s life are, or will be, indelibly etched in each of our memories. We may lose track of the longer medical history leading up to death, but we never forget the very specific details of how care was rendered in the final days.

A second truth, illustrated in Ms. Grant’s piece, is the solemn responsibility family members have to ensure that every aspect of end of life care helps rather than hurts the patient. In our society and in our health care system, attention to the most certain of all human events cannot be ad libbed, careless, or unrehearsed. Each of us has the right to expect the best from our caregivers and the health system at this critical time.

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As a mentor for young health care professionals in the MedStar Health, I teach, and warn, that as we care for others, so shall others care for us and our loved ones. We need to pay close attention to this daughter's message — it is meant for us all.

Dr. Christopher D. Kearney, Baltimore

The writer is medical director of MedStar Health Palliative Care.

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