Well worth a read. This article touches on something that most medical professionals know, but most patients don’t. My father was dying in a hospital of advanced COPD, and the doctors there seemed unwilling to tell him he was near the end. It took me stepping in and saying, “You mean that he will either die soon of heart or kidney failure?” The answer from the doc, in front of my dad, was, “Probably.” I turned to my dad and said,” So dad, where do you want to die, here or at home?” He made the choice to go home and he died there a couple of days later surrounded by loved ones and in peace.
This article is a very good teaching lesson about the dirty little secret of medicine in America. And we are trapped in a system that makes a lot of money on end of life procedures and often is the last place you’ll get good information to make a decision about whether you really want it or not.
Despite growing recognition that more care isn’t necessarily better care, particularly at the end of life, many Americans still receive an enormous dose of medicine in their final days. On average, patients make 29 visits to the doctor’s office in their last six months.
Another superb article from Harpers magazine, about an Oregon doctor who helped many people die with dignity faces his own end.
I stumbled on this today. It is perhaps one of the most well done overviews of an issue that I have discussed with my parents as they were dying, my late wife, and close friends in their last months. I have personally had to fight doctors to get palliative care to my friends and family. That needs to change.
Palliative Care Doctor Ihrig has done a superb job documenting in 13 minutes one of the areas that our health care system can dramatically improve, now, without waiting to boil the ocean with Single Payer. We can fix this in our local medical systems now by demanding it change locally. One doesn’t have to wait for the government in Washington D.C. to mandate this change. I have medical friends who are trying their best to get this word out. They talk about how it’s an uphill battle. As Dr. Ihrig points out and was very clear to me, the business of making money off those at the end of their lives is working to bankrupt our medical care:
So what do we know? We know that this population, the most ill, takes up 15 percent of the gross domestic product — nearly 2.3 trillion dollars. So the sickest 15 percent take up 15 percent of the GDP. If we extrapolate this out over the next two decades with the growth of baby boomers, at this rate it is 60 percent of the GDP. Sixty percent of the gross domestic product of the United States of America — it has very little to do with health care at that point. It has to do with a gallon of milk, with college tuition. It has to do with every thing that we value and every thing that we know presently. It has at stake the free-market economy and capitalism of the United States of America.
Take the time to listen to this 13 minute talk.
The healthcare industry in America is so focused on pathology, surgery and pharmacology — on what doctors “do” to patients — that it often overlooks the values of the human beings it’s supposed to care for. Palliative care physician Timothy Ihrig explains the benefits of a different approach, one that fosters a patient’s overall quality of life and navigates serious illness from diagnosis to death with dignity and compassion.
Dr. Timothy Ihrig on Dying Well