He Would Rather Die Than Live With The Surgery The Doctors Suggest?

My Husband Says He Would Rather Die Than Live With The Surgery The Doctors Suggest. Can’t He Just Let His Disease Take Its Natural Course Without Subjecting Himself To This Treatment?

Being diagnosed with cancer is a tremendous burden on anyone, and the ability to cope with feelings may be more difficult if someone is told that a permanent (or even temporary) physical change may be necessary. For example, most people do not want to live with an ostomy (which entails wearing a “bag” to collect bowel movements or urine), or having their breast removed (mastectomy), or a  prostatectomy, or other surgeries that change the look and/or function of their bodies. Some people may consider declining surgery or other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

If your spouse is having a similar reaction to a proposed treatment, help him take a step back and review his decision-making process so that he can be sure that he is making the best decisions. Patients need to weigh their own values when making any treatment decision, including whether or not to have treatment at all. Some people who initially decline a procedure later change their minds, after the initial shock subsides. Sometimes taking the time to talk more to the physician, talking to other people who have had the same procedure or treatment, and/or seeking a second opinion can help ease this decision-making process.

Use this added information to help your loved one make the right medical decisions for him. Encourage him to research his choice and to take control over his decisions. When discussing the pros and cons of an operation with a surgeon, ask about the location and reason for surgery or treatment, and confirm the need for the particular medical intervention that has been proposed as opposed to other options. If it is indeed recommended, and you and your partner are still unsure of whether or not to proceed, make sure that you are aware of the consequences.

It is important that you understand that “letting nature take its course” does not necessarily mean slipping gradually into a gentle death. For example, not having a surgery such as a  colostomy can result in medical complications, including possible obstruction of the colon and tumor invasion of other organs, potentially resulting in lower quality of life including pain and frequent hospitalizations. Foregoing surgery or treatment can hasten a patient’s death. Sometimes patients and family members disagree about whether the patient should undergo the treatments/surgery the doctors offer or suggest. Occasionally, family members are adamant that the patient undergo the procedure despite the patient’s reservations or explicit refusal. If this describes your situation, first, talk to your spouse about why he has made this decision.

Be sure to listen—not argue—with the reasons. Then, after your spouse has finished, explain your point of view as calmly as possible, understanding that the final decision is his to make, but that the decision does affect the rest of the family. If tensions are high, then you and he may want to talk to a trusted friend or a more impartial person, such as a nurse, counselor, minister, or social worker, to help focus the conversations and keep the lines of communication open.

Furthermore, be aware what your reasons are for wanting your husband to have the suggested treatment. As social workers, we have seen family members some-times fear the loss of their loved one so much that they are willing to do anything to keep him or her alive. Sometimes the proposed treatments can be invasive and lead to side effects that may not be worth the suffering to the patient. You need to consider your feelings because you, too, are affected by your husband’s diagnosis, but be sure that your opinions are based on a fair assessment of his wishes as well.