Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Facing the end of life, do you want heroic measures?

I wouldn’t have understood this story before spending the summer as a hospital chaplain. Now I do. It’s long and may be emotionally challenging, but it’s worth reading through, for your own sake or that of your loved ones.

Doctors' Secret for How to Die Right
Why do physicians make different end-of-life choices than the rest of us?
By Melinda Welsh 
Sacramento News & Review
Oct. 14, 2013 

Local physician Michael Gunther
Maher said the doctors he hangs out
with at the hospital who have been
vocal about interventions near
the end of life have said, “No
way are they doing that to me.”
Dr. Ken Murray wrote an essay for the web-only magazine Zócalo Public Square, thinking he’d be lucky to attract a few dozen readers and generate an online comment or two. Instead, the physician—a UC Davis medical-school graduate who taught family medicine at the University of Southern California—drew an avalanche of responses. In fact, what he wrote put him center stage in a swirling debate about life, death and doctors.

What did he reveal that was so groundbreaking?

He claimed that a vast majority of physicians make dramatically different end-of-life choices than the rest of us. Put simply, most doctors choose comfort and calm instead of aggressive interventions or treatments, he said. Another way to look at it is that doctors routinely order procedures for patients near the end of life that they would not choose for themselves.

What do doctors know that the rest of us don’t?

According to Murray, physicians have seen the limitations of modern medicine up close and know that attempts to prolong a life can often lead to a protracted, heartbreaking death.

Click to read the full article online.