Bioethics Blogs

Case by case by Jason Danely

“The question for me of whether to get a stomach tube for my mother was whether or not she has lived her natural life completely.[1] Maybe her time has come and maybe not. The tube just makes a natural life last longer. . . But it is really difficult! It just has to be case by case…”

Yasuda-san pursed his lips silently, as if to make sure his words would not change their minds and return to his mouth. Then he turned to the older man dressed in a baggy beige cardigan at the table next to him and gestured to his mid-section.

“Stomach tubes! It is really case by case, right?”

“Case by case!” the man replied, nodding, “But it is at least something that you can do. If they need a lot of hydration or something, they can put the tube in so that they don’t get oesophageal pneumonia. . .”

“If you get pneumonia it is really bad. . .” Yasuda-san agreed, “but the thing is, once you do [the surgery], you might have regrets. That’s just the human condition I guess. . . most people, once they put it in, they leave it there until the end. At my mother’s care home most, well, really everyone has a stomach tube. Every single one! In my mother’s case, [when I think about the tube] what I think about is whether this person is needed on this earth. I’m not sure.”

The two friends appraised their respective narratives, taking turns like playing a game of catch.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.