Tag: end of life

Blog Posts (47)

December 17, 2014

Brain death and uncertainty

The case of Jahi McMath has been back in the news. She was declared brain dead Dec. 12, 2013 after she went into cardiac arrest following a tonsillectomy surgery in California. Her mother did not accept the diagnosis of brain death and moved her to New Jersey where state law allows the continuation of medical treatment for a person who has been declared brain dead... // Read More »
November 27, 2014

An All-Too-Brief Review of Being Mortal

Being Mortal, which is subtitled “Medicine and What Matters in the End,” is about aging and frailty, decline and death, and dealing with those as well as possible.  It’s not really a book about medical ethics or even about medicine as much as about our latter days.  It’s full of stories about the loss of independence, assisted living, nursing homes, intensive care at the end... // Read More »
November 21, 2014

Bioethics Exam

In keeping with the evaluation-obsessed spirit of the time, here is a little bioethics test. No multiple-choice fill-in-the-bubbles here, no simple true/false; but bioethics usually isn’t so simple, is it? So it’s OK if you don’t have a No. 2 pencil, you can still take today’s exam! _______________________ 1. The patient-physician relationship depends on trust, and close observation, and appreciating subtleties, and giving one’s full attention... // Read More »
November 21, 2014

Resident physicians as the key to Do Not Resuscitate orders

At last month’s ASCO Palliative Care conference in Boston, one of the presentations was a survey, done by resident physicians (doctors 1-3 years out of medical school, doing hospital-based, post graduate training) at Tufts Medical Center.  The topic: what their fellow residents thought about conducting conversations with patients about Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders. Some background:  most of the time, these conversations would arise in... // Read More »
November 11, 2014

Dying and Dignity

On November 1st, Brittany Maynard, a 29 year-old Oregonian with an incurable brain tumor, took her own life using a medication prescribed by a physician specifically for this purpose. The medication, legal under the Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, was prescribed weeks earlier. The case is well-known because Brittany became a spokesperson for efforts to expand “assisted suicide” laws to other states. Through her own... // Read More »
November 6, 2014

On Testimonial and Argument in Bioethics

We all know, as Steve Phillips reminded us yesterday, that Brittany Maynard took the pills this past Sunday, one day later than she had originally planned.  In the days before that, she appealed to our compassion for her in her suffering—and powerfully at that.  Equally powerful were stories from the likes of Kara Tippetts and, as Steve pointed out, Maggie Karner, two women with terminal... // Read More »
November 5, 2014

Physician assisted suicide on YouTube

Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is in the news in a way that is different than before. It is not because it is election time and a state has a ballot initiative about legalizing PAS. It is because a 29 year old woman with an aggressive malignant brain tumor, Brittany Maynard, has chosen to use PAS to end her life and chosen to do it very... // Read More »
October 30, 2014

Nobility and nihilism in palliative care

Last weekend, I attended the inaugural Palliative Care conference for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).  Fifty years into ASCO’s existence, it now takes the formal position that good cancer medicine means integrating palliative care—addressing symptoms and “whole person” aspects of medical care—throughout the treatment of a person’s cancer, not just at the end of life.  And there has been a move to establish... // Read More »
October 13, 2014

The Indignity of a Death with Dignity

The story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old newlywed who has been given the diagnosis of terminal glioblastoma, an especially aggressive brain tumor, has gone viral over the past week. Many know the story already, but it centers on her decision to end her life by taking an oral medication prescribed by her physician, who will be sitting at her bedside with her husband and... // Read More »
September 25, 2014

So when do you hope to die?

Perhaps you’ve seen it already:  the ever-more-present Dr. Emanuel has a piece in The Atlantic entitled “Why I hope to die at 75.”  Follow the link and you can read it for free online. I confess that, upon learning of the title and the author, my mind was flooded with wisecracks.  I publicly repent of those and will repeat none of them here. I don’t... // Read More »