Thomas Hobbes described life as pitifully “nasty, brutish, and short.” Thanks to the free market and the state, life is no longer a Hobbesian nightmare. But death has become nasty, brutish, and long. Surgeon and writer, Atul Gawande, explores the medicalization of aging and death in Being Mortal. Gawande points to a glaring deficiency in medical education. Taught to save lives and fight death, doctors don’t bow out gracefully and say enough ...

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As I travel around speaking about preparing for peace at the end of life, I have found that there are three pervasive myths about hospice that might cause you to inadvertently rob yourself or your family of a peace-filled end-of-life experience. So, I am taking on the job of myth-buster to clear the air. Here goes: Myth #1: Hospice is a place. While hospice can be a place, it is primarily a service. ...

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In 2010, I became a hospice volunteer. My mother had died of a brain tumor five years earlier at age eighty-seven. I saw being a hospice volunteer as a way to express my gratitude for my mother's compassionate hospice care and to help other caregivers to weather a loved one's passing. And, as a former reporter and writer, I thought I could help people to write their life stories, if they ...

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medpagetodayFrom MedPage Today:

  1. Studies Cement Value of HIV Prophylaxis. re-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with a single pill prevented HIV infection among more than 85% of two groups of men who have sex with men.
  2. NSAIDs: A Risky Addition to Post-MI Antithrombotics. Adding a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to antithrombotic therapy after a heart ...

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Early on in my career I called an Indian internist in the middle of the night to admit a patient to him. The patient was an 88-year-old female with advanced dementia, a terminal brain disease. She had aspiration pneumonia, which is often the final common pathway of this illness. She was in respiratory failure, in septic shock and was a “full code.” I can still recall our 4 a.m. conversation: “Hi, Dr. ...

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asco-logoMom. Dad. Happy. Sad. Friend. Trust. I remember playing this game. A friend would say one thing, and then I would say the first thing that came to my mind. For some reason, it would pass the time. I remember how some words would spark an emotion or a memory. Sometimes happy, sometimes not so happy. But, playing that game was one of ...

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Neither of the two most important people in Aaron's life could stand to be in the same room with each other.  There was a long colorful history between his ex-wife and his brother, and as his disease began to accelerate, the feuding became quite intense.  They argued over Aaron's advance directives.  They both tried to coerce and manipulate themselves into commanding positions.  The shouting became louder, the fury more fierce.  ...

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“So, I told the doctor at the nursing home that I loved my father more than anything. Dad was my friend and the most wonderful man I had ever known.  I wanted everything for him. But, I said, Dad was sick, weak, confused, and he never wanted to live like that. The next morning he was dead.  That was OK by me.” I once participated in a panel discussion about hospice, ...

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Some people who know what I do don’t really know what I do. They picture me floating through the hospital extinguishing lives, blowing them out one by one like candles down an endless corridor. They think I practice euthanasia, that my presence alone hastens death -- that I consume hope and happiness like a black hole, compressing it all into nothingness. Some call me the Grim Reaper, others the Death Doctor. ...

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Mr. Dwyer isn't my patient, but today I'm covering for my partner in our family practice office, so he's been slipped into my schedule. Reading his chart, I have an ominous feeling that this visit won't be simple. A tall, lanky man with an air of quiet dignity, Mr. Dwyer is eighty-eight. His legs are swollen, and merely talking makes him short of breath. He suffers from both congestive heart failure and renal ...

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