Please help us in making the right decision, it really aches the heart ...

My uncle is about 60 and he has liver cancer and cirrohsis both late stages, and he is now been handed to hospice ..... he lives in the states, and his mom (my grandma) usually visits him in the states (she lives abroad) once a year and spends a couple of months with him ...

Given that he is her youngest, and I could say favorite, she sees him as the youngest and healthiest of her kids (he has elder sisters but all suffering from different illnesses but living with them) ... he is her pride, her backbone, her pet ... you name it ...

She hasn't seen him now for more than 2 years (the covid situation mainly was the factor) ... but since last year he was diagnosed with liver cancer, and he never told her because she would be devastated let alone pressure him in so many ways .... so to take the pressure away from both of them (that is what he believes) he never told her, and he told his sisters and nieces and nephews not to as well ..... during the course of a year, he kept deteriorating, and now he is in his last stages, doctors say he needs to prepare to die and nothing can be done, and they handed him to hospice, who are giving him the soothing care which is meant to let a person die in peace ...

The crazy thing is his mom does not even know he is sick, she thinks he is her healthy young son full of life, the one she always knew, ... she has been nagging for a year now to see him, and they keep giving her excuses so they don't send her to the states, they tell her its covid and its bad and she can't travel ... and she keeps longing to her son and saying she misses him ...

Tell me please, is it right not to tell her until now? .. her daughters say they are scared she will be devastated (which she will of course) .. they are scared something will happen to her (since her health has deteriorated lately, but mainly pscyhologically, she is having so much anxiety, panic attacks and depression) ...

Do you think it is fair to keep her in the dark? Because we believe she cannot handle it and that she will make a difficult situation worse?

Is it better she knows the news if he passes away? Or better to know it now and see him at his worst and be with him?

Please help us make the right decision for our family

Thank you

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This is your uncle's decision to make. If he instructs that the information is not to be shared with his mother, then nobody has the right to share it with her.

Of course, that doesn't mean that nobody *will* - cats tend to make their own way out of bags - but if you want the purist ethical line, there it is. Silence, everybody.

You or others (perhaps a pastor, or someone from the hospice team if he won't listen to family) can dispute this point with him. It will be a devastating blow to his mother to learn that her son took months to die and she was never given the opportunity to take her leave of him or adjust to the situation. But you can't know this: it may be that she will be glad she wasn't told. She may agree, ultimately, that she has been spared months of futile desperation or even false hope.

Another suggestion: ask him to write a letter to his mother that she can be given after his death. He doesn't have to explain himself or his decisions, or write about anything he doesn't want to. But he surely does owe it to his adoring mother to leave some record of farewell to her. All members of armed forces going into active areas are required to do this in case of mishap, and it is well established that last words and thoughts from the child a family has lost is of genuine comfort to the bereaved.
Helpful Answer (15)

My mother was 88 when my brother sat down with her to break the news that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She was extremely upset but had a long chat with him about it. We met as a family to talk about it and she said to all of us that she trusted her children and did not want to be ignored, or have bad news kept from her as if she were a child. If we did this then the bond of trust would be broken. We had a huge celebration for her 90th birthday in June 2008 then sadly in November of that year my brother died in hospital. The following day Mum had a stroke, not severe and no lasting paralysis but we were all guilt ridden about the burden we thought we had given her. She spoke to us all saying that nothing could help the devastation she felt at his loss, but she had the right to experience it and deal with it in her way.. We felt after that we could have more frank discussions. My brother died in America and his widow offered to send some of his ashes to Mum. She accepted this offer and asked for them to be buried with her. Our local surgery asked us to complete a form regarding Mum's thoughts about resuscitation and although I was appalled to be asking her about it I did and she gave her answer. The reason for the form is that if the very elderly are resuscitated a great deal of damage, such as broken ribs, can be caused during the process. There were other such questions about whether she preferred to spend her final hours at home or in the hospital. She told me she was glad that she was able to make such decisions. I would never have chosen to tell her about my brother unless he had. However, she was adamant that she would have been very, very upset had she not known. I am now approaching my 80th year and sometimes I feel ignored or powerless and fully understand now what she felt about my brother's decision to tell her. She said just talk to me the way we always talked I am not a different person because I am elderly.
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Candyapple Sep 2021
i love this response. this is exactly what I'm talking about when its time for one to feel that exact pain. they don't realize it until its there turn. we always suppose to do our best. ppl are ppl. pain is pain whether we know it or not how we would handle the situation. I just believe when u tell someone bad news be there for them as long and as best as u can. those are my thoughts. I'm praying for u. I'm happy u and ur family were close.
As a mother of 2 grown children, I have to say that regardless of what I had going on in my own life, that I would most certainly want to know if one of my children were sick and dying, as I would want to see them before they left this world, as I was with them when they came into this world. And I personally would be quite pissed off at those that chose to keep that information from me, regardless of their reasons why. But that's just me.
And the fact that your uncles mother lives abroad, she should be given the opportunity to come see him one last time, to say to him what she feel she needs to. It may be too late from what you're describing for her to make it here in time, but she should be given the choice herself. Perhaps you can at least let her facetime with him, before he dies.
No one wants to have any regrets in their life, and I'm afraid if you keep his mom out of the loop, that you all will have to live with that regret of not being honest with her for the rest of your lives. Something to think about for sure.
Praying for Gods peace in this situation.
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I think the time to ask this question sort of came and went a year ago when your uncle got the liver cancer diagnosis.

I think uncle is making a big mistake, and I'm sorry to say this, but I think the rest of you are going to bear the brunt of grandma's (justifiable) anger once uncle has passed. She is likely going to feel that she was "robbed" of time with him - and in essence, she kinda was - and if he is her favorite as you say he is, don't be surprised if she takes out her anger on the rest of you for not telling her (even though, yes, that responsibility really rested on uncle himself).

I'm so sorry you are going through this. I'm afraid there are no easy answers here. I can only say that if I were your grandma, I'd want to know as soon as possible, even if the news were to "destroy" me, because that's going to happen either way. It's just not natural to outlive your children, and there's really nothing anyone can do to lessen that blow.
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Isthisrealyreal Sep 2021
Exactly my thought when I 1st read.
The best way to answer such a question is to ask it of yourself: would you want to know if your son was terminally ill and on hospice, getting ready to die within 6 months?

For me, I would be L I V I D if that information was withheld from me 'for my own good' by 'well meaning' family members who thought I was 'too fragile' to handle the information. Considering I gave birth to that child and raised him, is it not my right as a mother to be with him as he takes his last breath, as I was with him when he took his first? I certainly would not let the threat of a virus prevent me from visiting my son, either, especially if he was on hospice care! But that's me, telling you how I would feel, as a mother who has a son, and how I would feel/what I would do if faced with the situation (God forbid).

Let common sense guide you to 'do the right thing' for your grandmother and your uncle's mother. My condolences over the situation you're all facing with your loved one.
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notgoodenough Sep 2021
I agree, I would be livid too.

I think if I was the person who was terminally ill, and I decided to not tell people, I wouldn't tell anyone. That way, once I had passed, people could be angry at me, and it wouldn't potentially drive a wedge between the people I love, because of some people knowing and having to keep that information from the people I didn't want to know. That's not a fair burden to place on people.

My FIL tried that with me - I happened to be the first one to visit him in the hospital after he was told he was terminal. His words to me, after he told me what the doctor told him - "don't tell anyone." I told him in no uncertain terms I would NOT keep this information from my husband, and that while I understood my FIL's desire to not "upset" anyone, that is was patently unfair to ask me to keep a secret - especially a secret of that magnitude concerning HIS dad - from my husband.
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The trouble with this question is that the headline asks the wrong question. The right question is: is it right to disclose confidential medical information without the patient's consent?

The patient - i.e. the OP's uncle - has made it clear he does not want his mother to be told about his terminal illness and approaching end-of-life. The OP further explains that he has his reasons, which include not only that he does not want to think of his mother's reaction but also - and more importantly - that he doesn't want to have to deal with her grief while he is in the process of dying.

We may think he is wrong, and that it may be (it isn't necessarily) cruel to keep this information from her. But this isn't about her rights, it's about his rights, and he is the one who decides what happens with his information.

He can be encouraged to think again; and he can be encouraged and helped to make some kind of provision for when his mother does have to be told what has happened. But to disclose the information now, without his consent, would be totally unethical and would possibly, probably, make everything much worse and much more painful for both of them.
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JoAnn29 Sep 2021
Very good CM.
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Wow..this really is the ill persons news to tell. BUT In our family my brothers wife {65] got ill went in the hospital and my brother chose to not tell mom and I . He thought she would get better , go home and then he would tell us she had been sick..She DIED 6 days after being admitted! He endured her dying process alone. We were a close family and devastated.. we had no closure. They lived 800 miles away. As a family we then decided no more secrets. 86 is the number of years you have lived. It does not make you unable to handle grief or sadness. I think we do a disservice to assume a person can not handle bad news. This truth will come out in time. Sometimes there are things left to be said before a death.
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I am 84 and I would need to know. No matter the age a mother needs to know. I lost a son and it is devastating, but I would not have wanted to not know. The only qualifier is if the mother has dementia (which I gather she doesn't) and couldn't process the news. Will it be difficult for family to see her pain? Yes, of course. But she still needs to know. Get her the help of her doctor and/or a counselor for dealing with her emotions.
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TouchMatters Sep 2021
We don't know the family circumstances.
Perhaps this son is dying from alcoholism as I am not sure what "liver cancer and cirrohsis both late stages" is and/or if possibly caused by alcoholic.
Point being. We do not know the family dynamics.
The son has a right to decide to tell his mother or not.
Rich, I believe needs to step back and be more objective about another family, other points of view.
It is ultimately up to the son, and the family.
I certainly wouldn't get into a 'long letter' about secrecy oaths. The letter needs to be sharing the good times the son and mother shared.
Won't she be equally devastated when he finally "suddenly" passes? Or will this be kept a secret as well? And won't she be devastated when she finds out there was a family "conspiracy" to keep her ignorant? I would make these points to your uncle as I think she should be told, but it is HIS decision. At the very least if he continues to keep it from her, see if he'd be willing to do a video of himself speaking to her and giving a diplomatic explanation of why he didn't want her to suffer with the knowledge of his illness, and giving a loving farewell to her. If he can't/won't do this, then it is what it is.
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I didn’t even have to read the whole post- a mom no matter what needs to know if her own child is likely going to die, of course she needs to know. How you tell her - with sensitivity and support but for God sake she needs to know
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TouchMatters Sep 2021
Read the entire post Sarah.
Nothing is black nor white. Life is shades of gray.
You do not know the relationship between this mother and son.
Did you read this part:
"and he never told her because she would be devastated let alone pressure him in so many ways .... so to take the pressure away from both of them (that is what he believes) he never told her."
The son doesn't want either of them to be / feel pressured - he's dying. Does he also need to feel pressured, too?
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