Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Life-prolonging treatment sometimes just prolongs suffering

The Washington Post has a feature story in “Health and Science” on Tuesday Aug. 4, about the idea that much medical care for the elderly can prolong life for months or years but not even palliate physical suffering. The story by Kristin M. Kostick and Jennifer Blumenthal Barry, link here, is “Deferring death can mean a life of suffering”, link here

The story concerns a husband and wife, Robert, 73, and Beverly, married for 53 years.  Now, she does the nursing care for his left ventricular assist device (LCAD).  Now Robert is considered in end-stage, where only palliative care is possible.  (He did pass away soon, before the story was written.)

My own mother had coronary bypass surgery in 1999 at age 85, and got eight very good years, and then three in which she declined, to pass away at the end of 2010.  The main diagnoses were congestive heart failure and aortic stenosis.  The possibility of a pacemaker, or of an LCAD, was never suggested.
I did have hospice at home and hired caregivers.  But I might have wound up having to do much more of this myself.


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