What questions should you ask doctor about what is going to happen if mother stops chemo?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016
Mary-1 asked...

What questions should you ask doctor about what is going to happen if mother stops chemo?


Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

There are two considerations here. The first is what questions to ask in front of your mother and the other is what questions to ask without her present. These may vary a little depending on how strong and inquisitive your mother is.

In front of the mother I would recommend:

  1. Ask about what symptoms to expect
  2. Is she ready for hospice?
  3. Is it time to get her affairs in order?
  4. You can ask how much time she has left, but physicians are often poor predictors when answering this question.

Without your mother present, you might ask the same question but may discuss the answers in more detail. You also might ask:

  1. What do you expect her to die of?
  2. How can we be prepared at home for likely problems and suffering?
  3. Given the answer to #1, is it safe for my mother to stay at home?

It's important to try to get answers that are as honest as possible from the physician and/or the hospice, but remember that while these medical professionals have experience, they do not have crystal balls. Each person with a disease is different and predicting the likely outcome in a given person is very hard and harder the farther from dying the patient is.

Specific questions you might ask both the doctor and hospice also include:

  1. What is the likelihood of a respiratory death?
  2. What to do in case of choking?, intense pain?, acute hemorrhage? Confusion?

You're more likely to get detailed answers and explanations regarding these last two questions from the hospice care nurses, who have a great deal of day-to-day experience dealing with end-of-life care.