asco-logo In July 1991, I was beginning my first year of medical school in Rochester, New York. I was filled with excitement and anxiety on beginning a journey in medicine as I started on the road to becoming a doctor. At that time, Rochester was in the national spotlight because of the actions of one of our faculty members, Timothy Quill. ...

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Brittany Maynard has passed from this life.  This brave but unfortunate 29-year-old woman with incurable progressive brain cancer drew public attention by choosing to go public with her choice about end of life care. "Brittany suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms," according to a statement Sunday night from Sean Crowley, spokesman for Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit working to expand end-of-life ...

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brittany-maynard Would you base a life or death decision based on one doctor’s opinion? One research article? Google searches? What would it take? I recently read that Brittany Maynard took her own life. Plagued by glioblastoma, she chose to reject chemotherapy, radiation, and hospice. Tomorrow, I have a schedule packed with glioblastoma patients who personify courage, determination, and faith. Glioblastoma (GBM) ...

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shutterstock_137226314 When teaching about life near dying, it is hard to achieve open conversation.  No matter what one says in a lecture hall or what brilliant writers publish on the terrible state of end-of-life care, change is painfully slow.  While we blame evasion by doctors of challenging conversations, failure by patients to plan or denial by families which blocks open communication, the ...

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During my first year of medical school, in the last year of my father’s life, his oncologist had a difficult discussion with him and my mother- the decision to become do-not-resuscitate (DNR). I remember my mother was taken aback, my father was relieved and I was deeply saddened.  However, when I got the call that my father may not make it out of the hospital this last time, I was ...

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Not too long ago I suggested hospice to a patient who had progressive cancer, although she likely had months to live.  “I don’t think it is time,” she replied, “hospice is for morphine.” “That is not how I see hospice,” I replied, “I think hospice is about getting the best care and support, even if there is no real treatment for the disease.  It is about living well, maybe better. Even ...

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He had called the other day to update me up on his condition.  He did not sound upset, but resolute.  "They offered me peritoneal dialysis," he said, "but I decided against it and figured I'd just let nature take its course.  The hospice people are so wonderful -- I've got things all set here at home, but I have two questions.  What should I do about my warfarin?  You know, ...

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We’re born into our bodies, and we take that for granted. Our first job is to take a breath, something we’ll hopefully do many millions of times and never think about.  That first breath changes everything: Our blood starts to flow through our heart and lungs in a different way and for the first time we taste a new world. Before we’re born, all our needs are met via an artery and ...

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As a family doctor, I had the privilege of sitting down at the hospital recently with Mr. M, a longstanding patient of mine, and his family. Mr. M is a college-educated engineer, struggling near the end of his life with end-stage kidney disease, dialysis, severe congestive heart failure and crippling COPD. And he was pretty down about it. In the hospital, a critical care physician, a pulmonologist, a nephrologist, and a cardiologist ...

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The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has released their long anticipated 500-page report, titled ,"Dying in America – Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences near the End of Life." This is a critical addition to the ongoing conversation about health care in the United States and makes observations and conclusions, which we need to consider and understand.   They conclude, as has been said before, that we waste ...

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