Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dartmouth Medical school offers "soft medicine" for some elderly


The New York Times has a story on Monday May 5, “For the Elderly, Being Heard About Life’s End,” link here.

The article, using a study at Dartmouth Medical school discusses the concept of “slow medicine,” which emphasizes comfort rather than prolonging life as long as possible. The article admits that medicine has developed a culture of pulling out all the stops to prolong life as long as possible, and that this practice is financially and productively unsustainable in the long run.

The article also suggests that most people who reach their 80s and 90s will become frail and dependent. Women live longer than men and may remain dependent longer. The report also suggests that once someone reaches that age, reviving someone after a cardiac arrests is unlikely to prolong life for long. But this contradicts other, much more optimistic views of aging as recently shown on the ABC “Live to be 150” in early April 2008 (see my TV blog). However, multiple media reports and a recent PBS documentary (also on the TV blog) depict the extreme levels caregiving attention required from other family members, when there are repeated life-extending treatments. This is a situation that has evolved in the past fifteen years or so.

What is unclear is whether lifestyle changes and preventive care with health care reform, as discussed by the presidential candidates, can extend quality and activity of life (and independence) as well as longevity itself.

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