"Before I leave, I want to talk to you about something very important. I want to make sure that nothing is ever done against your wishes, so it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 98 years of age, if you’re a patient being admitted to the hospital, I need to ask you some questions. You’re stable — so I hope I don’t alarm you with this discussion. Have you ever ...

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On my first day of medical school, my father, a dentist, told me he'd just been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Cancer had crept back into my life — except this time not into my body. At age 12, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. After an aggressive surgery, I was tumor-free for 10 years. Then, at 23, I received the news of an inoperable recurrence. While going through radiation and ...

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Because of my father When you lose a parent during childhood, it effects just about everything you become.  Decisions about life naturally stem from enduring this trauma.  Some try to form families early and replace that which they feel has been lost.  Others spurn close connections and create a wall so firm that no one else can encroach.  An attempt to protect against pain.  Because of my father I ...

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On a curiously warm morning last February, the minister arrived at my childhood home to guide my father to the other side. When he approached the bedside where all of us were gathered around with the Eagles Pandora radio humming in the background, my dad emerged from a semi-conscious state and sat up as best as he could. “Listen. I am not dying,” he declared. As an early-career researcher focused ...

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Many of us have moms and dads or older friends and relatives in nursing home facilities and care very much about their well-being and the supports they receive. But who’s caring for the care aides who do the bulk of the frontline work in nursing homes? Their welfare is almost entirely overlooked in the health system. And it turns out, the health of the care aide affects the Read more...

Let’s say your loved one is at the end of life. She’s 84, with advanced cancer that is no longer treatable. A decision has been made to put her in hospice -- which is a level of care more than an actual location. (Most hospice actually occurs at home.) The patient waxes in and out of consciousness, sometimes lucid, but mostly not. While no one is ready for her to die, this end-of-life ...

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“I remember you,” said Gracie with the look of having found a long-lost friend. “You gave my husband the option to be treated aggressively in the hospital or return home with palliative care. He chose to go home.” I hesitated to ask, “How did he do?” Gracie went on to say that her husband had passed in the last month, yet lived nine months following our brief encounter in the ...

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As Hannah's granddaughter clutched at her skeletal fingers, the blanket fell to the side revealing the faded serial numbers on her forearm. The family gathered, yet again, to say goodbye. This time her acrid breath had lost humidity, her respirations dry and raspy, the extremities mottled with a bluish tinge. Death had visited the neighborhood before. Lounged in the parlor. Nibbled on crackers and tea. But letting go was not so ...

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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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