Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


March 13, 2013

Praying for a Miracle

Susi is a 40-year-old woman recently diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer. She has had a challenging life, with the death of her fiancé at age 22 in a diving accident, followed by many years of depression and isolation. At 38 years of age, she met "the man of my dreams," Paul, who was widowed after the death of his wife, also from an accident. Susi says that she has also "been abundantly blessed" because Paul has 2 teenage daughters and she has had the opportunity to be a mother to them. She also shares that she abandoned her Catholic faith when her fiancé died, but that Paul is a devout Catholic and has pulled her "back into the arms of God."

When the oncologist and nurse practitioner attempted to explain Susi's unfortunately very poor prognosis, Susi and Paul asserted that they believe that God will provide a miracle and she will be cured. Susi insists that God did not "bring me through years of darkness and into this family to die and abandon these girls." Susi and Paul pray together constantly and read scripture. They are visited by their priest, family, and friends, all of whom support their belief in the miracle to come.

Susi has been admitted to the hospital with painful ascites, jaundice, and dehydration. She has uncontrolled nausea but is also asking whether she can be enrolled in a clinical trial. She and Paul believe that they should aggressively continue treatment as they await the miracle, "so that God knows that we believe." They refuse a palliative care consultation because they "don't want to give up."

In recent days, communication between Susi and the hospital staff has become strained. Some of the staff have been reported as saying that Susi and Paul are "crazy" or "in denial."


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