When counseling patients and families about end-of-life care, I try to focus on a simple, clear standard.  Knowing that events are overwhelming and complex, I say,  “Look at each treatment, each action and each moment and ask; How does it improve quality of life?”  My goal is to reduce the choices during a chaotic time of life to the simple goal of comfort. For example, most families are very concerned about ...

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Case 1: You have a 94-year-old woman with multiple medical problems in hospice who develops a fever (subjectively hot to the touch), shortness of breath, and a cough producing yellow sputum.  Her daughter asks if she can be treated with antibiotics "to make her feel better."  The patient is not well enough to make decisions, but in earlier conversations had stated a goal of remaining comfortable at home, while also ...

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"For someone who went into medicine to 'help people,' you sure do talk about dying a lot," my mother told me one day on our brief weekly phone call. I try to get in a phone call to my mother once a week so she knows I'm alive, surviving my intern year. I had been on medical intensive care unit (MICU) service and it had been a rough week. Being ...

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Whether they are young or old, we do not want our loved ones to die.  Period.  Even if we live with faith in our eventual, eternal reunion with them, we know that their passage will leave a void.  I completely understand. But I want to take a few lines to try and make things clearer, or easier, for those who have family members who are very aged and infirm.  You see, ...

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I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou We are often asked, “How can you do that?”  How can you stand to do that work?  Such a dreary subject.  Grim but supposedly necessary.  Don’t you get depressed with all the talk of dying?  Facing death and its consequences every day must be the prime route ...

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Why must everything be so difficult? Soni pushed her mother quickly into the building from the parking lot, she wore a strained look on her face.  The wheelchair appeared preposterously large for the aged figure cowering under the haggle of blankets.  They were enjoying the brisk air, taking a walk around the facility, when the elderly woman called out.  Her lips curled and she moaned deeply. Now Soni's mother had stopped talking ...

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When I first started facilitating a grief support group shortly after moving to New York, my aim was simply to create a supportive environment for members to heal from their grief and to form long lasting bonds of friendship. In the course of five months however, I've begun to wonder whether emotional and psychological healing can be contained into an end goal with a finish line. For the most part, authors ...

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Les called me about his PSA. "Jim, it's rising and now up to eleven and they're recommending treatment.  What would you do?" Even as a long retired MD, I still get medical calls from friends and relatives.  Actually, I feel honored and try to do my best, researching the latest journal articles and editorial opinions.  Of course, the prostate cancer literature is cloudy at best with scant evidence that the huge number ...

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How dare you! Life can change in a heartbeat. Most of us believe that our lives, our loves and all the that things that make us who we are is a gift from a higher power. One that can be taken away as swiftly as it is given. But somewhere in the shuffle of taking kids to practice, catching up on emails, worrying about bills, and the search for the perfect ...

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So a guy has his car towed to the mechanic. All four tires are slashed. He has a simple request. Please replace the tires. But this is one of those comprehensive care mechanics. He not only examines the tires, he does a full once over. He pops the hood and immediately knows that the engine is shot. It's fried. The cost of fixing the engine is more than the value of the ...

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