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 tragic case of Alfie Evans has roiled Great Britain and the world. Alfie was a two-year-old child in the United Kingdom with an unknown degenerative brain disease who eventually deteriorated to the point that he required life support. His brain had become mostly liquid, and he could not see, speak, or hear. Alder Hey Hospital decided his condition was terminal and irreversible and wanted to stop ...

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As a retired physician who has written a book about end-of-life issues for elderly patients, I have placed myself in an awkward position. According to most guidelines, at age 67, I am elderly. How will I approach the end of my life? Not only do my personal medical concerns career around in the echo chamber of my own mind, but I have the added challenge of trying to follow my own ...

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The recent passing of former first lady Barbara Bush, an American icon, also brought a commonly debated discussion to light, palliative, and end of life care. Many articles were published regarding her last days, mentioning she was “foregoing further medical care” or “no longer pursuing medical treatment.” These types of statements are not only inaccurate, they also minimize the incredible medical care provided by palliative care and hospice teams. To realize ...

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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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May lay in a hospital bed, her wrinkled skin covered with sensors that monitored her every breath and heartbeat. Her husband sat at her bedside gently stroking her withering gray hair as her chest moved slowly up and down accompanied by the soft whoosh-whoosh of the ventilator that breathed for her. He stared expectantly at her face as if at any moment she would rise and free herself from the multiple ...

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A cup of black coffee — such an ordinary request. Behind this request is a mother of a dying son, who due to financial restraints, has slept on the same hospital recliner chair and eaten the same oatmeal and mashed potatoes made from a water kettle every day for months. What can we offer when there is no more chemotherapy, what can we do to alleviate this mother's struggle? A ...

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I would like to give some tips to younger doctors regarding how to tell your patient that he is going to die. Your approach should also incorporate your unique personality, as well as published literature and other resources. For your first case, watch someone more senior tell the patient. See what you think worked and what could be improved. When it is your turn, make sure ...

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Other than taxes, the only other certainty in life is death. People don’t like to pay taxes or think about dying. But on April 16th, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) reminds people to complete their advance directives. Like a passport, an advance directive permits an individual to proceed from one world to another with an easy stamp of approval. Without the proper paperwork, patients at the end of life are ...

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