Can you help me with this matter of care for the dying?

My mother has been suffering with dementia for the past few years. She had been in a wheel chair and incontinent and on hospice for the past few months. It has been a struggle for her and for our family. She fell a few weeks ago and we were told she had a hip/pelvic break. The ER physician wasn’t sure how old the break was, but advised us we could have surgery, though there was no promise it would be successful, nor would she be able to do physical therapy. I am pro life, my sister (who shares responsibility with me for our mother’s care) is not pro life. The doctor advised me she would not recommend surgery. I considered how hard physically surgery would be for my mom and agreed to just treat the pain. My sister was very upset and thought we should try the surgery. She said she would do things “my way” but I have a feeling she is not happy.
I am struggling with my decision. My mother has been on various anxiety/sedatives/etc since being placed into nursing care. Her life has been so difficult. My sister is very ill and is not able to see my mother regularly. We both care about my mom and want every day for her to be peaceful if not joyful.
The doctor has told me my mother would probably not survive much longer being treated for pain, as she would sleep more and she would not be eating as much. Should I have opted for the surgery to take the chance that it would prolong my mother’s life?

Dear friend,

Morally speaking, you have done nothing wrong. Medicine is not my field, but from what I have learned from seeing similar situations, such surgery at your mother’s age would have been very, very painful and difficult for her. Her life is still not going to be easy, but it would seem that at least she won’t be in such great pain. You went with the physician’s advice, which was reasonable. You should have no regrets.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit