During the 1990s Dr. Jack Kevorkian drove his Volkswagen van through an unmet need in American medicine euthanizing 130 patients who felt death was the only solution to their suffering. He euthanized his "patients" with devices he named the "Thanatron" and the "Mercitron." The former allowed his patients to administer IV barbiturates and potassium while to latter delivered carbon monoxide. When convicted of manslaughter, he told the court, “Dying is ...

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In his lifetime, William Shakespeare wrote almost 120,000 lines and about 900,000 words. His 37 plays and 154 sonnets burnished his reputation as the unrivaled wordsmith of the English language. So what would the Bard, who had something to say about everything, have said about palliative care of the suffering of the sick? Although I couldn’t resurrect him from his venerated grave, I could unearth quotes from his collective works ...

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The “Great Man Theory” of history was popularized by the Scottish author Thomas Carlyle in the mid-19th century. In his 1840 “Lectures on Heroes,” he famously wrote: “The history of the world is the biography of great men.” Carlyle claimed that history was made by “great men” possessing personal courage, vision, charisma and political or military genius. Our more egalitarian age has favored mass movements, social forces and “great ideas” ...

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In 2017, The Lancet published a report on the international lack of palliative care. It is a tale of woe documenting the sorry state of unrelieved global suffering. Everywhere “people live and die with little or no palliative care or pain relief.” It describes the “access abyss” in which the poor live and die in extreme suffering without receiving pain-relieving medications. They describe the world ...

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It was a perfectly comfortable morning when suddenly it was discomforted by a request for a stat palliative care consult. A stat consult is disquieting because "stat" is a dissonant adjective for the compound noun, "palliative care." "Stat" is the medical abbreviation for the Latin adverb "statim" meaning "immediately." Stat orders always imply the necessity of an immediate response to an emergency: an inadequate blood pressure, an erratic hear rate, a ...

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