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How Doctors Die

A post on Zocalo Public Square by Ken Murray discusses the issue of how doctors handle terminal illness. Surprisingly, to me anyway, is that most physicians surveyed forego heroic measures in contrast to the advice they typically give their own patients.

As I commented on their site, most physicians don’t get enough training in end-of-life issues. This, coupled with a legally-charged environment, makes most doctors and hospitals become enablers of mostly futile efforts to prolong the life of patients who either didn’t want it or who were no longer in a position to make well-informed decisions about it.

Apart from the fact that a significant amount of money is spent on the last few months of the typical Medicare patient – yes, some will yell, ‘I smell rationing’ – the medical community needs to learn to have frank but compassionate discussions with patients who have terminal illness. Being a doctor isn’t always about prolonging the length of someone’s life but instead improving their quality of  life.

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