We are all saddened by the news that LSU’s live tiger mascot, Mike VI, passed away on Oct. 11 after a long battle with cancer. His illness also allows us to discuss the kind of care we might like to receive if we had to face our own serious advanced illness.

While many people think that it is very important to talk with physicians and family about the subject, few people actually do so and even fewer people write anything down. We should all consider and write down who we want to make decisions for us in the event that we can’t speak for ourselves (health care power of attorney) and what kind of decisions we would like the person to make on our behalf (living will/advance directive).

Mike VI couldn’t share his health care wishes with us, but I can only imagine that he wanted to be free of pain and other symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, insomnia, constipation and anxiety. We have excellent medications available to treat humans with these symptoms! He probably also would’ve liked to eat whatever he wanted to eat in whatever quantity he wanted – a few bites or a whole slab of meat. At some point, eating and drinking probably were of little or no interest to him. I also presume he would’ve preferred to be surrounded by his fans, but as his illness progressed, he may have become more reclusive and less interested in the world around him.

Appropriate end-of-life care is provided to humans by organizations known as hospices, and the care is provided in the patient’s home, or wherever the patient may live. The goal for any patient is to “live well until he/she dies.” Mike VI entered hospice care for a short time so that his caretakers could make sure he lived well and didn’t suffer. Rest in peace, Mike the Tiger – you’ve taught us a wonderful lesson.

Susan Nelson, MD
Hospice and Palliative Medicine Physician
LaPOST Coalition Chair

For more information about advance care planning, please visit www.la-post.org.