Remarkable advances in medical care are helping us live longer. But that means there also are an increasing number of people living with advancing serious illness.
The vast majority understand they are living with a terminal condition, yet they and their families are unprepared for the final stages of life. Relatively few have had discussions with their physicians about their prognosis and end-of-life care options. Their wishes and goals are not discussed, and no meaningful informed consent regarding further disease-directed treatments is provided.
“Let’s try this,” becomes the default recommendation, and patients are commonly led down a path of relentless disease-directed therapies of limited to no benefit. Tragically, more treatment too often results in more suffering and shortened survival.
With the expert end-of-life care currently available, dying and death can be meaningful and peaceful for many. But to believe all deaths are “natural” – peaceful and without suffering – is just wrong.
Now, I too am faced with terminal illness. I have multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and despite aggressive care, I have not achieved remission. My cancers are incurable.