Murdering Dad and Mom
Be cold and blue
She got screwed
He dead too
Sing about it
Too ra loo
One professional boundary that should never be crossed is to medically treat first-degree relatives. By definition, there can be no objectivity in this adventure. If it is true that the shoemaker’s children often go barefoot, then it also axiomatic that a physician’s children should avoid the care that any other lay person would intuitively believe to be easily accessible.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I attempted to treat my mother for an episode of prolonged incapacitating inner ear vertigo; then also my father for severe back pain. After all, what do I know about the ear or the spine; I’m just a Cardiologist. But when filial guilt set in, I capitulated to the pleas that forced me to do my best. In my mother’s case, she would usually have to be dragged behind the car on a leash to get her to a doctor’s office. This behavior was in part justifiable because of her ordeal with breast cancer, which had been diagnosed when she was in her thirties.
Her surgeon was so aggressive that besides doing a radical mastectomy with lymph node resections, he also put her on quasi-experimental chemotherapy. In subscribing to his personal theory about estrogen receptors in the breast being a future potential hazard for recurrence, a few weeks later he performed a total hysterectomy. At the time, none of this was scientific protocol, but the surgeon was operating with the best interest of his patient as his first and final intention. To some degree he was eventually proven right, while in others, he was not.
Weighing ninety pounds, bald, and looking like death warmed over when she finally left the hospital, my mother then did everything in her power after that to avoid medical care. The irony was that she survived the cancer only to live long enough to become demented; dying of Alzheimer’s’ Disease when she was eighty-four.
So, in my attempt to help her out with the decade’s post-cancer episode of vertigo, after several failed trials of empirically or otherwise recommended drugs, I gave her Dilantin. a drug used to control seizures, as a last resort; having read one case report on it’s efficacy for refractory vertigo. This anecdotal medical trial, was for me the equivalent of one of my patients getting all their Cardiology therapies on Med M.D. and nearly culminated in being her last resort as well. As a drug mediated reaction, she developed a spiking fever to 106 degrees that nearly cooked her to death.
Ironically enough, the fever also cooked away the vertigo, and although being cured by serendipity, she then believed by inverse logic that I was a fantastic doctor.
- See. All that money we spent on Medical School was worth it after all.
- Yes. Brink of death therapy should be my new mantra.
In my father’s case, well after my mother had been placed in a nursing home for Alzheimer’s disease, he drove to my house one day in agonizing back pain. His regular doctor was off for the day and he begged me to refill the Valium previously prescribed to relieve the back spasms. Not wanting him to suffer, at first I balked but then complied with his request.
Later that night I decided check on how he was doing, only to find him in bed, nearly comatose, barely rousable, and so stoned he was beyond the ability to even slur his words.
The intensity of the back pain had caused him to misread the label on the prescription bottle, so he not only overdosed by taking 20 mg instead of 5mg but had also mixed the drug with the wine that he customarily drank at dinner. He thought the label said to take four at once, then four more four times a day, instead of reading it correctly as not to take more than a total of four in one day.
I did a bedside coma vigil, periodically rousing him, and hoping he would not pull a John Belushi or a Momma Cass. But he did make it through; waking up the next day feeling tired, amnesic for the episode but also feeling somewhat better.
- Wow. That was great. I don’t know how you did it, but my back feels terrific.
That was a good thing too, because if had not awakened, there is no doubt that various eyebrows and certain suspicions would have been raised in the ensuing police investigation.
- So, you gave your own father a lethal dose of Valium, eh? I also understand that you are the Executer of his Trust. Is that true?
- No sir, I really loved my daddy. And yes sir, I am.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions