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To think my potentially dying FILs wishes should be overridden

(36 Posts)
SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:04:19

History: My FIL is a lovely man, he is 75 and has not been in good health for many many years. Lots of things, heart problems, arthritis, neuralgia - he hasn't left the house, apart from medical appointments for probalby 2 years now. In the past six months he had reason (weight loss i think) to have a colonoscopy - it was a horrid experience for him, proved inclusive due to inadequate prep (hardly surprising, its a nightmare) and he refused to go back for further tests, he is a bit of a hypochondriac (alot, i sympathise as i suferfrom severe health anxiety) and has driven himself to distraction with his home medical books. He has recently, in the past month lost hideous amounts of weight and feels very ill has taken to his bed, insisting that he is dying and forbidding anyone from calling a doctor. My DP and his family was convinced he was dying because he looks so bad (ive not seen him) and my DP has been in a terrible state about it all. They were convinced he wouldnt see the week out - well, this was three weeks ago and there has been no change. He is ill, in pain but refuses quite aggresively, medical help.

I am convinced that whilst there is clearly a "physical" ailment here, the principal problem is one of depression - i know from my own experience how crippling this can be. This man is terrified of going to hospital (even though this has changed, the slightest twinge before would have him calling an ambulance and kicking up a fuss if he thought he might be sent home - felt safer in hospital iyswim) and losing his dignity - i understand all of this but i have so many problems with this.

Firstly, how can his family just be expected to let him die (if this is what is happening) with no palliative care apart from what his mum and BIL (we dont live nearby - bil is brilliant) can offer him, but they dont know what they are dealing with. FIL is convinced he has cancer and wants to die at home.

How can i make him see that by refusing medical intervention at this stage, ultimately he is going to going to be in such a state than him going to hospital will most likely be the only option left, but if we can get some sort of diagnosis at and paliative care plan in place we can fascilitate him staying at home.

Secondly, what are the legal ramifications if he is left to die, i mean, he is being looked after well but no medical care, and is apparently like a skeleton, how can his family prove they havent just left him alone in the room to starve to death sad

My biggest concern is, and this sounds awful, but what if he isnt dying? Is his wife expected to care for him for an indefinate time? It isnt fair on her, or him - i think he needs a psychiatric assesment. He is paranoid about "going mad" my poor fatehr had alzheimers and he told DP that all he does all day is recite times tables and his date of birth to prove to himself hes not going mad, err, i think that sort of obsession suggests quite the opposite.

I cant make anyone listen to my concerns and probably have no right to do so seeing as im not the one having to do the caring, but i can't bear to think of him festering away like this when he doesn't have to. Yes, he might have cancer, and he might not have long to live, but he is fortunate enough to live in a society where his suffering can be alliviated to some degree sad

Ive begged DP to call a doctor but he gets so cross with me and says its not his place, he has asked his mum and begged his dad but they wont hear of it.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue but i have no idea of what to do to help sad

NimpyWindowmash Sat 28-May-11 22:13:17

Well, I agree with you in that this is an intolerable situation. But you have done all you can really. If you can't get through to your DP or his mum, there isn't much you can do, unless you could have a word with fil directly.

bubblecoral Sat 28-May-11 22:14:29

What an awful situation. sad for you all.

How does he react to he own GP usually? Would talking to them and stating your concerns (without expecting the GP to make comment) be an option?

Perhaps you could call AGE UK, I think they have a helpline nuber, and see what they advise.

Sorry I can't offer anything else.

WhoAteMySnickers Sat 28-May-11 22:20:24

I think I'd be tempted to call his GP, ask the GP that he treats your call as confidential, and tell him everything. Failing that, do it via letter, anonymously.

It's an impossible situation really, I don't know what else you can do.

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:23:12

Nimpy, thats the thing isn't it, whilst it is intolerable for all concerned, who are we (the family) to deny a potentially dying man the respect to honour his wishes. I do actually think that FIL would listen to me, i have a medical background and i have often joked that i am the family doctor because he would always ask me pretty much everything healthwise and i think he MIGHT listen but the family wont allow me to see him sad not in that way, but he doesn't want anyone to see him in this state, the poor man.

Thanks bubble, i may do that.

Im not in position to talk to his GP as im not in the area, but BIL or MIL could and ihave asked them to do this, just to protect themselves legally but they wont.

Vallhala Sat 28-May-11 22:24:36

I agree with WAMS, I'd call his GP too, explaining that I know that the GP can't discuss FIL but asking him/her just to listen and act as appropriate.

I feel for you.

Selks Sat 28-May-11 22:25:15

You could always call social services to discuss. One of the adult / elderly care Social Workers may be able to discuss such issues as your FIL's capacity to make decisions and what your options might be.

bittersweetvictory Sat 28-May-11 22:25:25

I couldnt stand back and do nothing, get SS involved or contact his surgery with your concerns, anonymously as whoatemysnickers says if need be.

ScaredyDog Sat 28-May-11 22:27:34

What an awful situation, I'm so sorry.

Please, talk to your DH. Do what you can to make him and his family see something can be done and that his dad needs to see a doctor.

I say this because my friend's MIL died terribly last year. She was poorly, terrible sickness, diarrhea, losing weight. Her daughter (friend's SIL) moved in to look after her, mum insisted it was a bug and she refused to see anyone.

After many weeks of her refusing to allow a doctor while living with her daughter, it got to the point that friend's SIL called an ambulance. She went into hospital, it was found she had advanced bowel cancer and she was on life support and dead within a month.

Maybe nothing could have been done even when she got ill, but I get angry thinking about the fact she refused all medical attention and I'm sure my friend and her husband do too in private moments.

Haecceity Sat 28-May-11 22:27:56

There's bog all you can do without his co-operation unless you think that his state of mind is such that he is not thinking rationally and is putting himself at risk - then you have the right to act.

I know this from making enquiries about a situation in my own life.

this is from the advice I was given

The situation you describe, where <I removed this> is experiencing mental distress but rejects any suggestion of help, is unfortunately not uncommon. In your email you say that if you contacted <I removed this> GP, and he went on to contact them, then they would simply tell him to go away. This could be the case. However, it might be that <removed> GP is not aware how serious the situation has got – especially as you mention that <removed> is reluctant to visit him. Making contact with the GP to discuss your concerns about <removed> could be useful. Although the GP may not be able to act directly without a visit from <removed> themselves they may be able to offer you some advice about the situation. As <removed> are adults, if they are unable or unwilling to seek and engage with help there may be very little you can do.

Although it doesn’t sound like <removed> are necessarily a danger to themselves you may find it helpful to have some information on the powers of the nearest relative. If you ever do fear for <removed> safety, if you are their nearest relative you can request an emergency mental health assessment via social services. This will assess their mental health needs and allow for the appropriate help and support to be put in place, against their will if deemed necessary.

and they gave me this link

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:30:23

This is going to sound terribly selfish, i do want to get SS involved, but i have been told by a relation who works in palliative care that if they feel he isnt capable of making his own decisions over this, he could be sectioned. My relationship with DP is strained at the moment anyway due to our own personal problems, if i did that, it may well be the straw that broke the camels back. Sadly, i found SS greatly lacking in compassion when we tried to get help for my father when suffering from alzheimers so i am also quite wary of their involvement

ReindeerBollocks Sat 28-May-11 22:31:38

I would call SS to discuss his options with MIL. That is a start and if he truly believes he is dying then the correct palliative care can be put in place.

Can you not talk to MIL directly, to express your concerns? She must be severely worried too.

ReindeerBollocks Sat 28-May-11 22:33:56

X posts.

Well apart from speaking to doctors or SS what would you propose? If he is incapable of making such a decision then the duty of care rests on MIL and she is doing nothing to your knowledge.

Please try and speak to here directly to get her to at least speak to the GP.

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:36:38

Haecitty, thankyou for passing that on, that is pretty much how i assumed the situation to be sadly. I am probably going to not interfere too much if i am honest. I guess it is up to his blood family to decide, but i just wish i could make them see that, whilst he would be devestated and angry, in the long run, it might be better to get him some help, that way he gets to remain in control - i dont know, maybe im being niave and starting the whole medical ball rolling would be awful for him and we should in fact honour his wishes. I had gallstones once, i have a very high pain threshold and am tough as old boots, i was begging my DP to call me an ambulance even though i was terrified and didnt know WTF was going on - i am hoping that if he gets in too much pain, he will ask for help iyswim.

Bohica Sat 28-May-11 22:39:38

You can speak to Social services about vulnerable adults & see what advice they can give you.

Writing to the gp is a very good idea but if you can go & see him yourself he may let you arrange some help for him to help diagnose the problem.

The ambulance service also work under the vulnerable adult protocol but you would need to be with him to help work everything out.

ScaredyDog Sat 28-May-11 22:40:36

If you hadn't seen what I said above OP, please read it. If my friend had known what was going on, or her husband, then they would have done anything - even getting his mum sectioned if that's what it took.

Morloth Sat 28-May-11 22:40:46

I think he has a right to live his life how he wishes and if the people doing the actual caring are OK with it then you have no business interfering.

If you believe he is being abused or neglected as a vulnerable person then they is one thing. But if he wishes to die and to do it at home then that is up to him.

Are you willing to bear the consequences if you involve outside help and he is forced into hospital and dies there?

You have my sympathy but given that he is surrounded by people who love him and has made his wishes clear I think you should leave it.

FriedSpamButty Sat 28-May-11 22:42:33

How awful for you. But standing back and letting someone you 'think' is dying carry on and die could go horribly, horribly wrong. The law expects us to call in medical experts and to not just let nature take it's course. Especially when we are untrained and don't know what nature's course is. No one should die in pain and just because they think they are dying doesn't mean they are and should be left to get on with it just because they can be a bit difficult.Watching someone die without asking for medical help is manslaughter pretty much.

I thought I was dying when I passed a kidney stone a couple of years back but I'm still here!

I know it's the DM but would your DH's family like to be subjected to this?

bibbitybobbityhat Sat 28-May-11 22:44:00


Even if he is dying, his death could be an awful lot less traumatic with the appropriate care. No one is going to make him go in to hospital, but that doesn't mean his poor family have to do all the caring.

And what if it isn't life threatening? Stranger things have happened.

ScaredyDog Sat 28-May-11 22:44:31

But Morloth, nobody (including him) knows what is wrong, or even if it's life-threatening!

OP has said that he has health anxiety. Why should the whole family have to go through this terrible thing, for goodness knows how long, without having any diagnosis? How does his right to live his life in such a way trump that of everyone around him, when he's possibly not in a position to be thinking properly and might need some proper, professional help?

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:44:48

scaredy, i did read it yes thankyou and this is my concern too, but what can i do.

Morloth - thankyou, this is reluctantly, the way i am proceding with things. He is absolutely not being neglected or abused. And yes you are right, that would be the last thing i want to happen, i just that will be exactly what will happen if help isnt sought now, but you are right, nothing i can do sad

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:46:51

thats exactly it - what if he isn't dying, this could go on for years sad

ScaredyDog Sat 28-May-11 22:47:12

Don't let this happen Sunshine. At least do whatever you can to ensure you feel you did something to help him.

Otherwise you will feel helpless and guilty, and your relationship with your DH won't be any better after this.

razzlebathbone Sat 28-May-11 22:49:17

OP you say you haven't seen him since he got really bad? Can't you go and see for yourself and talk to him? Maybe you'll be able to get a better idea?

SunshineisSorry Sat 28-May-11 22:51:34

but at the end of the day scaredy, whilst i agree with you totally, if i feel helpless and guilty, i guess that is tough on me, its not about me - im not even sure if his direct family have the right to override him even less so me. I sometimes think, ah well, if he falls out with me, so be it - but it wont just be me it will be my DP and that would be awful, i cant force my views on the family really can i sad

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