Hot Topics: End of Life Care

Blog Posts (77)

November 12, 2014

Wisdom Does Come with Age

<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Reminders of our finitude always lurk close by, like <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/09/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/">Ezekiel Emanuel's</a> article in last month's Atlantic, "Why I Hope to Die at 75." The head of the <a href="http://bioethics.nih.gov/about/">Clinical Bioethics Department</a> at the National Institutes of Health gives reasons for not living beyond 75: inevitable decline, disability, incapacity, and diminishment of "creativity, originality, and productivity." According to Emanuel, we wish to be remembered for our good years, prior to decline.</p> <p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">There are grains of truth here. Many of us "die" well before we are officially declared dead. I've seen patients kept alive for far too long in permanent vegetative states, while family dynamics, emotions, finances and scarce medical resources are depleted. We pay a high price for medical "progress." I also know thriving, vibrant elderly, themselves significantly disabled and incapacitated.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
November 12, 2014

Why the right to die movement needed Brittany Maynard

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer. At the age of 29 she decided to end her own life and “die with dignity” under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act.” There have been many articles written in support of Maynard’s choice and many articles written condemning her choice to die.…

November 5, 2014

Brittany Maynard: A Terminal Cancer Patient’s Controversial Choice

<p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">The cover story of the October 27, 2014, issue of <a href="http://www.people.com/article/terminally-ill-brittany-maynard-decision-to-die">PEOPLE Magazine</a> featured Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Oregon woman with terminal brain cancer. </span><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">In the article, Ms. Maynard announced that she would end her life on November 1, 2014, on her own terms, availing herself of the physician-assisted suicide option under the 1997 Oregon<a href="http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx">Death With Dignity Act</a> (DWDA). </span><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">As planned, and according to her own schedule and timetable, she <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/11/02/brittany-maynard-/18390069/">died peacefully at home</a> – surrounded by family and friends – on Saturday, November 1. </span><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">She had signaled earlier in the week that she might <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/30/brittany-maynard-puts-off-ending-her-life/18166161/">delay taking her own life</a>, but in the end, it occurred as she <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/30/brittany-maynard-terminally-ill-cancer-patient-ret/">originally planned</a>.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;"></span><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">In electing assisted suicide, Ms. Maynard said, “I’m choosing to put myself through less emotional and physical pain.” She continued, “I don’t want to die, but I’m dying. My cancer is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. … When I look at both options I have to die [dying from the cancer versus dying from an overdose], I feel this [a fatal dose] is far more humane.” But rethinking the possibilities after developing a rather extensive plan in orchestrating one’s death with a terminal illness is not that unusual either. Roughly 40% of those who obtain the lethal doses of medicine under Oregon’s DWDA in the end die not from suicide but disease. According to an article in </span><em style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;"><a href="http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/ten-years-of-death-with-dignity">The New Atlantis</a></em><span style="line-height: 22.3999996185303px;">, written to report a 10-year experience under the DWDA, author Courtney Campbell wrote, “In ten years, 541 Oregon residents have received lethal prescriptions to end their lives; of this number, 341 patients actually ingested the drugs.”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
November 4, 2014

GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE: ANNOUNCING THE RELEASE OF PLANNING MY WAY

by Ellen Fox, MD

It’s been five years since the media firestorm around “death panels” – a term coined by Sarah Palin to refer to a provision in Obamacare that would have authorized Medicare payments for advance care planning discussions.…

November 3, 2014

Rest in Peace Mrs. Maynard

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Over this past weekend, Brittany Maynard took her own life. At 29-years-old, Mrs. Maynard took her prescription for assisted suicide to end her life before her terminal brain cancer pushed her into a quality of life that she found unacceptable.…

October 20, 2014

Death From Ebola: What do we do with the deceased?

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In the United States in the year 1900, 52.6% of all deaths were due to infectious disease.…

September 24, 2014

Sophie’s Choice: Can Machines Do Any Better?

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In the 1979 novel Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, the reader meets a Holocaust survivor who was forced in the camps to choose which of her two children would die immediately.…

September 18, 2014

A simple change? The IOM Report on “Dying in America”

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Say there was a simple change that could be made to the health care system that would reduce cost, reduce demand, increase patient’s quality of life and satisfaction, address the whole patient and not just the disease, improve care coordination, and increase patient autonomy.…

September 3, 2014

A Distinction for the Debate over Brain-Death

<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">There has been a good bit of debate lately in bioethics circles over the concept and proper definition of death.   The disagreement is between those who think that the cessation of brain activity or ‘brain-death’ is sufficient for death, on the one hand, and those who think that brain-dead patients whose circulatory systems continue to function are still alive, on the other.  Consider, for example, the recent tragic case of Jahi McMath.  McMath suffered complications from a surgery to correct sleep apnea which resulted in cardiac arrest and her being placed on a ventilator.  Shortly after physicians at Oakland Children’s Hospital pronounced her brain-dead and so legally dead.  Her family, however, disagreed, and appealed to the courts for Jahi to be maintained via mechanical ventilation and PEG tube.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Although Jahi’s family disagrees with the claim that she is brain-dead (insisting that she is merely ‘brain-damaged’), suppose the Oakland physicians are correct in their diagnosis of brain death.  Nonetheless, even after the pronouncement of brain-death Jahi’s body continued to exhibit the sort of homeodynamic equilibrium—at least for the time being, and with assistance from mechanical ventilation and other life-sustaining interventions—characteristic of living organisms.  It was warm to the touch; her heart continued to pump blood through her veins; and so on.  Indeed the bodies of brain dead patients have in some cases remained functional for weeks and even months, performing such surprising feats as undergoing puberty and even gestating fetuses. This has led certain physicians and philosophers to question whether brain death is really sufficient for death.  Patients who are truly dead, after all, could not be warm to the touch or gestate fetuses.  Could they?  </p> <p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20.3999996185303px;"> </span></p>
August 27, 2014

Brain Death Is a Flash Point in End-of-Life Law, Ethics and Policy

by Thaddeus M. Pope, J.D., Ph.D.

The August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics includes nearly 20 articles on the status of death determined by neurological criteria (DDNC or “brain death”). …