It's not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What's unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.This story from the Wall Street Journal was an eye opener.
Unlike previous eras, when doctors simply did what they thought was best, our system is now based on what patients choose. Physicians really try to honor their patients' wishes, but when patients ask "What would you do?," we often avoid answering. We don't want to impose our views on the vulnerable.
The result is that more people receive futile "lifesaving" care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. ...
It made me grateful that my father didn't try to fight his way back with therapy, an option that seemed unrealistic when it was proffered. It also made us realize that the surgeon who early on advised Tom and his brothers about what he'd do "if it were my mother" was being honest in a way that is rarely seen. (Now, months later, we realize he probably was right. Tom says that in letting themselves be guided against that advice without getting an outside second opinion they should have given his words more weight. However, what's done is done.)
Read the whole thing. This is going to guide me in the future. When I ask "what would you do?" I'm going to insist on a real answer.
(I meant to look for the original article ... here it is at Zocalo Public Square.)