Thursday, December 19, 2013

At the end of life...

Even in Southern California, people die. They may die thinner and prettier, but die they do. As I see my patients on rounds, in the hospital, I am frequently thinking the thought- memento mori -remember you must die- and so, the living has to be worthwhile; Life has to count for something.

Often, when I treat sick patients, especially those with cancers who are now on third-, fourth line chemotherapy when I'm broaching end of life care in preparation for CPR discussions and Palliative or Hospice care; they are surprised when I tell them, ever so gently, that the end is near. Sometimes, it is because the Oncologist is not comfortable discussing end of life issues or they have bought into the illusion of fighting  to the end. Sometimes, patients are not listening or they have fixated onto a remark made by another doctor, trainee or nurse.

I'm convinced that as a society we just need to get more comfortable talking about these morbid issues. We need to talk death at the dinner table, at the hospital, at the clinic and anywhere else we need to. Doctors and patients, in my opinion, are like ostriches that pretend that if we hide our head in the sand, Death will not come for us.