Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

As my mother lay dying

Peter Meyers
Washington, D.C., United States


Older woman smiling in a hospital bed
Rosalie Smiles in Her Fancy New Hat. Photo by Judy Baxter. 2006. Via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My mother was sitting up in bed when I walked into her hospital room. When I asked her how she was doing, she grinned and responded, “Super!” Her doctor, standing nearby, added that she was the happiest and most easygoing patient on the ward.

That was not the mother I knew and loved. She had been a brilliant, hard-driving attorney, the first female partner at her law firm. She insisted that her children work as hard as she did, to achieve all we could. She had accomplished a great deal, and not only in her law practice. For many years, she was the women’s golf champion at her club, and a professional level bridge player. Everything she did, she did well. And she worried about all the problems that came up, or might come up, in the lives of every member of her family.

But Mom could also be combustible, flying off into a rage at Dad for the most minor things, like wearing the wrong sports jacket for a dinner date. He was a laid-back, mellow soul who ignored her rants, which often infuriated her even more. And that relationship worked just fine for fifty years of marriage, until his recent death.

Did I want her doctor to reduce the dosage of her meds so she would return to her “normal” self who we could talk to in her final days? No. Let her continue to float blissfully up in the clouds rather than trudge through the anxious hills and valleys below as the rest of us still do. She is entitled to that.



PETER H. MEYERS is a Professor of Law Emeritus at The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He served as Chairman of the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines Workgroup of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and as a Designated Reviewer of nine publications issued by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. He has published articles in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, the Administrative Law Review, and the Drug Law Journal, among others. He currently teaches in the forensic psychiatry fellowship programs at Saint Elizabeths Hospital and The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.


Fall 2021  |  Sections  |  End of Life

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