Topics regarding end-of-life and dignified passing may seem counter-intuitive for Emergency Room physicians, who are dedicated to saving lives, but we recognize that not all lives can be saved. When this isn’t possible, patients deserve a peaceful & humane way to leave this earth. Too often we forget that life truly does have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The concept of a beautiful death is real.
The doctor approaches you and says, “Your mother is seriously ill and we have to put her on a ventilator to keep her alive. Do you want us to do everything?” Your answer is, of course, “Yes, I want you to do everything.” Then you think, “Why is he asking me this question?” You assume that by doing everything, your mother will be saved. What you may not realize, however, is that this decision may subject your loved one to a great deal of suffering without changing the outcome. When asked, most people say they would like to spend the last part of their life at home, surrounded by their loved ones, in a comfortable environment. Modern medical technology allows us to prolong life, but often in a way that directly contraindicates what a patient wants at the end of life. There are certainly some patients that may benefit by prolonging life through medical means and who, ultimately, do go on to have quality of life. However, this is often not the case. This book will help you consider the decision to prolong life in a world of modern medical technology. The idea is to allow you to more fully understand the emotional and financial costs, as well as the potential benefits and/or disadvantages to the patient. As seasoned Emergency Physicians, we want to help you make this decision intelligently. We have witnessed family members suffer unimaginably because the decision-making that was chosen did not allow for a dignified, humane and peaceful death.
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