Panel shares end-of-life lessons

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – At the heart of “Tuesdays with Morrie” is the journey to live well as the body is dying.
“Everyone knows they are going to die, but no one believes it. If they did, they would do things differently,” the dying Morrie Schwartz told former student Mitch Albom.
Tuesday’s Tupelo Reads medical ethics panel discussion on dying with dignity and grace at the Lee County Library focused on the issues raised in the book.
The first step to protecting the dignity and grace of a dying patient is to keep treating them like an individual, the panelists said.
“As a physician, I can’t expect every patient to die the same way,” said Dr. Sharon Douglas, a University of Mississippi Medical School professor and chairwoman of the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs. Respecting the autonomy of the person even as they are dying helps protect their dignity.
However, the most important thing – which Albom discovered in the course of visiting with his old professor – is often the same.
“The secret is just being there,” said Douglas, who is a board-certified pulmonologist. “That’s sometimes the most powerful thing we can do.”
For patients with ALS and other terminal diseases, a great deal of effort goes into helping patients maximize their quality of life and make the most of the time they have, said Tupelo neurologist Dr. Rhodemarie Maron.
“It’s precious and should be embraced,” Maron said.
The care for a terminally ill person and their family goes beyond the medicine.
“Listening to the person, it breeds dignity,” said the Rev. James Richardson, director of pastoral care at North Mississippi Medical Center. “This listening is thinking about what they are saying and totally being with them.”
The Tupelo Reads series will wrap up next week.
michaela.morris@journalinc.com

Tupelo Reads
- 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday: Student art exhibition 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the GumTree Museum of Art. Free.

- 7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Screening of TV movie “Tuesdays with Morrie” at Fairpark. Free. In case of rain, the screening will be at the Lyric.

- 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1: Performance of the play “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Lyric Theatre. $15/adults, $6/students.
Call (662) 844-1935.