Case study

Liz Whelen

University of Chester


‘Dorothy’ is 92 years old. Her husband Fred died 25 years ago; she has two children, five grandchildren and two very small great-grandchildren. She lives an active life for someone of her age, in sheltered living accommodation. She often reflects on how she feels she’s the ‘only one left’ having survived her husband, her four siblings and most of her friendship group.

One week ago, after a few weeks of experiencing shortness of breath, Dorothy was diagnosed with lung cancer and was told that it was likely to progress quickly. She was told that chemotherapy could be considered, but given her age and cancer type, it was not recommended and would probably not extend her life significantly. Her family have not taken the news well; they blame themselves for not taking her to the doctor sooner, and don’t understand how she can be so calm about the situation. Dorothy refused treatment and is content that she’s had a ‘good innings’. She has told her eldest daughter that when the time comes, she wants to ‘take matters into her own hands’ so as not to be a burden to her family.

Discussion questions

1.   What does end-of-life research tell us about the best way to help navigate Dorothy through her last few months?