Would you tell your loved one that he/she is dying?


When the doctor informed the old man at Grey’s Anatomy’s yesterday’s episode that his wife, whom he loves the most in life, is dying of cancer. The old man asked the doctor not to tell her in order to spare her the fear of knowing that she is dying. Unfortunately, (or is it fortunately?) in the USA, doctors have to tell their patients the exact status of their conditions. The doctor told the old wife that she is dying of cancer in 4-6 months. The old lady in return asked her not to tell her husband so that to spare him the fear of losing her.

On the ground, my family had to face this kind of situation twice. The first time when my grandfather (mother’s side) was diagnosed of having cancer at an advanced stage where there was no point in treating him. The family decided not to put him through the hassle of chemotherapy and they never told him about his condition. He only suffered much on his last days, and he passed away without knowing that he had a cancer.

We recently faced the same problem, this time with my grandmother (father’s side). She was diagnosed with cancer last year, and was treated with chemotherapy without even telling her that this kind of treatment is for cancer’s patients. Her condition has only gone worse, and yesterday morning she demanded my aunt to call my father to go and see her. She said “I am dying, let him come”.

With the amount of spread of this deadly disease, and without a requirement for Jordanian doctors to be loyal to their patients and inform them about their condition status, Jordanian families are facing the hard question whether to tell their loved ones that they are dying or not. It is an impossible situation, and with our cultural preference of keeping things in secret, people usually go with the decision of not telling, snatching those they love the right of knowing that they might be living their last days, and thus knowing how to prepare themselves to leave.

I have always believed that if I ever get diagnosed of having only few months to live, I would want to know, but yesterday watching that old couple madly in love with each other while wanting to save each other the fear of knowing it, I am not really sure where I stand. While we all know that we are dying one day, knowing that “death is near” is very frightening. I may want to know myself, but would definitely want to spare my loved ones that pain.

It is a tough call. Sometimes we deprive our loved ones from their basic right for what we believe is the best for them, and our love can easily turned into a betrayal of their trust and their right to know what is going on in their bodies. Maybe if everyone write it down and made it clear what they want, people who love us would find it easier to decide to tell us that we are dying when we are or not.

My grandfather was crying yesterday because he realized that he is losing his life partner (they never told him about her condition as well). She on the other hand, lay in bed seeing all whatever believed in manifested in front of her. She called my aunt: “Look outside there is a huge beautiful cross”. Ofcourse my aunt didn’t see it.

May God help her through this.

10 thoughts on “Would you tell your loved one that he/she is dying?

  1. We were faced with such a situation before as well, my uncle from my mothers side was diagnosed with brain cancer a long time ago, he was young, in this thirties, naturally he was informed of his condition. sadly, we lost it, it was very hard.I suppose if the person was of old age, not telling him would perhaps be for the better, but then again it all comes down to the person himself and his nature, Personally if i was faced with the dilemma of telling a loved one or not, I would probably tell him/her, because that’s their right, but I am not sure, maybe i won’t, like i said, its relative from person to person, some people might accept it and deal with it courageously and some might affect them negatively and only make things worse.

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  2. I’m really sorry to hear about ur grandparents, I’ll keep ur grandmother in my prayers, may God help u and ur family to get through this.about the issue here, its really complex, but for all i know i want to know if i had such thing. i really want to have the choice to live my last days in the way i choose.

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  3. kinzi says:

    Yes, maybe it’s my culture speaking, but this one is a no brainer.I love the comment about your grandma. My mom saw heaven open and angels waiting for her in the room. I will pray for her, and your family.

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  4. Hareega says:

    It’s a big challenge, and to be honest it’s much harder to do in Jordan than in the US. In the US it’s even harder to do among Latino families because they tend to be more protective of their family members than non-latino ones. As you said, if I had cancer i would wanna know.An approach you can do is to ask the patient himself: if i find something really bad about ur health do u wanna know?it’s still tough, and there’s nothing harder to do than to find an answer to young previously healthy guy who’s asking you “when will i get better” when you know he’s got only 2 weeks to live

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  5. whatever says:

    hey! first am really sorry for the news…Second, i am happy to say you were not delusional this time!Man that is the thing, we always assume we know better. In the US one has to tell the patient and is not allowed to tell the relatives unless cleared by the patient himself. So I do not know, i believe in the right of patients, first and foremost… it is unethical not to tell someone he is ill, in my eyes it is a CRIME and nothing less than that to gove someone chemotherapy without taking his explicit agreement, exploring the options (which include pain management only) and the pros and cons of the treatment. Patients are the centre of the care the health system should be providing, and not telling them is a disrespect for intelligence and more basically their humanity.

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  6. bakkouz, I am sorry about your uncle. It was a tragedy. Alla yer7amo. You are right, it think telling the person is the right thing to do.Psg, thank you for your prayers. Yes, it is kind of wrong to strip someone from the right to know that he is living his last days. It is hard when you believe that you are helping spare him some fear.Kinzi, thank you for your prayers. What a beautiful sight for your mother before she left🙂Hareega, do you think there should be a law for this? I mean for doctors to tell their parents about their conditions? Loyality should be for the patient, and patients have the right to know exactly about their conditions. Whatever, thanks🙂. I am glad you dont find me delusional this time. I do agree with what you said to. A person should have the choice to decide because we might be wrong no matter how much good we think we are doing him.

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  7. bambam says:

    am sorry to hear that about your grandma personally even if it wasn’t just cancer but anything life threatening i feel that only the ones related should be in the know there is no need to cause distress to the people who won’t be able to help but thats my take on it.as for knowing i feel its imperative to know and clear things out for them. Death is a fact of life and sooner or later we are all gonna face it. so atleast when you instill that sense of “you don’t have much time” it will cause the person to prepare himself and hopefully face it calmly and with no regrets. i think its like hareega inferred the person already knows something is wrong so deluding him is not easy but necessary

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  8. im sorry about your grandmother..if i was dying i would want to know, and would be very sad, hurt and upset if it was kept from me…so i would not deprive someone from that right…

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  9. bambam, thank you man. Yes, death is a fact of life, but it is different when we realize it is near. It is quiet scary, and while I believe that it is our right to know about our current health condition, I can find a legitemate reason for people wanting to spare their loved ones such fear. Sam, thank you. It is a tough call. Hope you never get to face it.

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