This type of aggressive treatment isn't uncommon any more for the "older elderly" - those approaching or surpassing the century mark. Knee and hip replacements, cardiac bypass, heart valve replacements, and cataract surgeries used be reserved for the younger geriatric crowd and not often recommended for those in their 90's. That's no longer the case.
Our relentless search for the fountain of youth and our increased focus on health has contributed to a healthier elderly population. Many of these spunky elderly folks aren't content to sit around and wait for the grim reaper to come knocking. The medical technology is there and they want to take advantage of it.
The debate is sparked when you begin to look at quality of life vs quantity of life. Are these medical interventions really prolonging life or are they putting an elderly person at greater risk of death? Will the intervention improve their quality of life or will the effects of the intervention actually decrease it?
It looks like there is no right answer across the board. Hazel has done pretty well for herself. She still takes pleasure in dressing up in a skirt and blouse everyday and matching her earings to her outfit. She states that the best part of life right now is that she is alive.
Hazel's choice isn't right for everyone, however. Take a 92 year old woman with dementia and heart failure who's family is considering an implantable defibrillator device. What's the better way for this woman to die - a slow decline with progressive disability, weight loss, malnutrition, and inability to recognize family? Or a sudden heart attack? Most people I talk to say they would like to pass away peacefully in their sleep. A defibrillator device could prevent that scenario from ever happening.
As with any medical decision, when deciding whether to pursue aggressive medical treatment, it's important to weigh the pros and cons and always take your personal and family goals into account. For more information on making difficult health care decisions, see Introduction to Difficult Decisions: Identifying Goals of Care.
I'd love to hear what you think. Would you make the same choice as Hazel?