By David Hunter
This year marks the tenth anniversary of my first wife’s death. Kerry Anne (KAS to her friends) had cystic fibrosis and passed away after a good hard fight on the 12th of September , 1999 a year and a half after we married.
Kerry taught me many things and was really my main impetus for becoming interested in medical ethics. It was a natural extension of the many discussions we had had.
I learn’t from Kerry that people are very complex: Kerry was allergic to Panadol, if she had half a Panadol her temperature would drop rapidly (over a 15 minute period her temperature dropped from 39 degrees centigrade to 35!). Since supposedly the only active ingredient of Panadol is 500mg of paracetamol, she was presumably allergic to paracetamol even in small doses since she was only having half a tablet (250mg). (GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health care, undated) However she could tolerate and did take Di-gesic which had more than the amount of paracetamol (325mg) as half a Panadol along with dextropropoxyphene hydrochloride (32.5mg) with no allergic reaction. (Consumer Medicine Information, 1999) Even more puzzling lest we think the dextropropoxyphene hydrochloride had some prophylactic effect, when the NZ government switched from funding Di-gesic to funding Paradex, a cheaper generic drug with exactly the same active ingredients as Di-gesic she had precisely the same allergic reaction she had with Panadol. (Consumer Medicine Information, 2004)
I learn’t that sheer determination and to be frank being severely pissed off can go a fair way in getting yourself healthy again, after Kerry’s lung was collapsed during a routine operation and it failed to re-inflate she was sent home (in her mind to die). She wasn’t having that and soon the lung re-inflated on it’s own I think in part just to spite those who thought her prognosis was bad.
But most of all I learn’t that the people we write about when discussing medical ethics are precisely that people, flawed perhaps certainly imperfect but still nonetheless worthy of our regard, consideration and respect as authors of their own life. It is difficult to keep this in mind when writing in the abstract, but it is I think of the utmost importance to us as ethicists.
Thank you Kerry for all you taught me and the joy we shared, I miss you.