Futile care, the Lord’s will, and the physician

How do you want to die? How Doctors Die is Kevin Murray’s topic.

what I support is a patient’s right to choose their treatment, in a fairly absolute way. The point of my article is that the group that can reasonably be described as the most knowlegable and experienced in the end-of-life, have, in my observation, made a decision quite at odds with many people’s expectations. Surely you and most people would support a patient’s right to make their own decisions about their treatment?

The issue is “futile care” or heroic measures that have a very low risk of producing a form of living that would make one desire to continue living. Note that this is different from heroic care, such as exemplified by that provided to the 2011 air race crash victims.

The medical professionals are hired, trained, and committed towards providing life saving care no matter the cost or implication. They see the results of that care and it flavors their own perceptions about their own desires for care. That is the topic of the post.

The issue at hand is the idea that anything is better than death. As a binary, yes or no, question, life versus death is a simple matter. But when it comes to what many actually face, that isn’t the question.

Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone.

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist.

To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing.

As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like my fellow doctors.

The commentary on this post is well worth reading as well. There is the obligatory ‘cancer cure the establishment won’t recognize’ post, one or two miracles of recovery, and a few who can’t read or are otherwise oblivious and uncivil but otherwise the comments are sharing stories of the experiences they faced and the tragedies they encountered.

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