Why it’s so difficult to die in an American hospital

Dying has become a difficult and often excruciatingly slow process.

So says Minnesota internist Craig Bowron as he talks about treating some of the elderly patients on his hospital service (via Duncan Cross). Often times, these cases are among the most difficult, with family members contradicting previously discussed advance directives.

“There are no life-saving medications, only life-prolonging ones,” Dr. Bowron eloquently states, adding that “medical advances have created at least the facade of choice. It appears as if death has made a counter-offer and that the responsibility is now ours.”

The options he alludes to are, for instance, between a feeding tube or dialysis versus death, and these choices “can be agonizing when you’re 80 and the bad days outnumber the good days two to one.”

Furthermore, Dr. Bowron writes that we need to adjust our expectations of death, and rid ourselves of the “distinctly Western notion” of the illusion of immortality.

We as a society have trouble letting go, and in doing so, fail to realize that “the only thing worse than dying is being kept alive.”

Good piece, and well worth reading in its entirety.