Handling Death in the U.S.

Studies continue to show that the how and when Americans would prefer to pass away, is not how they actually pass away. That needs to change.

Most of the time, the medical profession treats its patients in keeping with what the patients want. If someone has a broken leg, for example, then doctors set the leg, put a cast on it and let it heal.

That is what people want.

When we get sick, doctors give us the best known treatment for whatever disease we have and everyone is satisfied. However, this does not necessarily hold true when people are at the end of their lives.

What medical professionals do at the end of their patients’ lives, is not what studies suggest patients necessarily want, as The New York Times reports in “We’re Bad at Death. Can We Talk?”

The disconnect at the end of life between doctors and patients, stems from the fact that doctors are trained to do everything they can to sustain life. On the other hand, most patients would prefer to be let go with the least amount of pain and discomfort.

This leads to terminally ill patients being placed in intensive care units on artificial life support, when they would prefer to be placed in palliative care or return home so that they can pass away in peace.

This is something that needs to be addressed by the medical community.

There is something you can do about it for yourself. You can get advanced medical directives to let doctors know what you want, when you are terminally ill.

Reference: New York Times (May 10, 2017) “We’re Bad at Death. Can We Talk?”

Death Has Changed A Lot

How, when and where people pass away has changed in the last 100 years. Evidence suggests that people are not entirely happy about that.

A long time ago, most people passed away in their homes. There were not many hospitals or hospices for people to go to, when they were terminally ill.

There are now many of those places and most people pass away in some sort of facility.

That has been both good and bad.

People generally like that they do not die as young and from as many diseases as people used to, but most people would still rather die in their homes than in a facility, as the Economist reports in “How to have a better death.”

In fact, the majority of people are not happy that they cannot choose when and where to die. People are often given life-saving treatment by doctors that they do not want.

At other times, people with little hope of long term survival are not given the opportunity to choose the timing of their own deaths, which leads them to linger on in pain.

This is the primary reason for the movement to legalize physician-assisted suicide, which is slowly picking up steam, as more and more states consider it.

Since it will not be an option for everyone for a long time, however, it is important that people take some matters they can control into their own hands.

Everyone should have advanced medical directives, at a minimum, that dictate what procedures doctors can and cannot use to prolong their lives.

Reference: Economist (April 29, 2017) “How to have a better death.”

Sued for Saving Patients

The first instinct for doctors and other health care workers, is to do everything possible to save the lives of their patients. That can be in conflict with the wishes of those patients, which is leading to lawsuits.

Millions of Americans have completed advanced medical directives such as health care powers of attorney and living wills. More and more people are taking advantage of their legal options to give directives to health care professionals about what treatments they wish to receive and what should be done to preserve their lives.

While this has empowered millions to take charge of their own end of life care, it has not been without conflict as The New York Times reports in “The Patients Were Saved, That’s Why the Families Are Suing.”

The problems start when the patients’ advanced directives are not followed.

Health care workers, who are either unaware of the directives or uncertain about them, have been known to resuscitate patients who do not wish to be, for example. This had led some families to sue for saving the lives of their sick relatives, which is a new position for doctors to be in. Most suits normally come when they fail to save patients.

It leaves many doctors bewildered, since the Hippocratic Oath does not suggest that saving a patient’s life is ever inappropriate.

Americans deserve to have their advanced medical directives respected and followed. Much thought and consideration goes into the decisions people make about their end of life care.

This is an issue that requires further education and making sure that health care workers are made aware of their patients’ advanced directives, so they can be sure to follow those directives.

Reference: New York Times (April 10, 2017) “The Patients Were Saved, That’s Why the Families Are Suing.”