Knowing Her Priorities, Receiving the Care She Wanted

Doris Gould

Rob’s mom was a beautiful woman. At 94, Doris was still proud of her fashion-model looks. She took the time to carefully style her hair and put on makeup each day. Looking good made her feel good.


In the fall of 2015, the nursing facility where she lived called Rob. A lump had been found on Doris’ tongue. After she got her biopsy, Rob joined her at the doctor’s office to discuss the test results: It was cancer.


The surgeon and Rob agreed to talk privately first. Once alone, she recommended surgery as the best option to extend Doris’ life. The surgeon was confident Doris could survive the 12-hour procedure, which would involve taking off part of her lower jaw, removing her tongue, and using muscle from another part of her body to create a new tongue.


Knowing his mom’s priorities were to spend her remaining days in her home surrounded by her family, Rob asked the doctor a series of questions, a skill he had learned because he was part of the team who developed Compassion & Choices’ Truth in Treatment initiative. Based on the surgeon’s answers to these questions, they developed two options for Rob’s mom to choose from: the surgery, or an alternative approach that focused on quality of life. Rob then encouraged the surgeon to meet with his mom alone so they all could feel assured that his mom was making a fully informed decision about her treatment. Doris’ response to surgery as an option was immediate and emphatic: “No way, no surgery, no hospitals. Not going to happen.”


Rob’s mom spent the next two months comfortable and happy. She experienced many moments of joy before dying in peace.