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Kaitlynn was born September 29th, 2004. We have seen neurology specialists from St. Louis to New Orleans since she was born. Unfortunately, we still do not have a definitive diagnosis for Kaitlynn. The best guess her doctors have to offer is mitochondrial disease.

Are Americans treated...overtreated....to death?

7:46 PM Posted In , , , , Edit This 15 Comments »
If your house was on fire would you try to put it out with everything you could…or would you throw your hands up and say fire is part of nature?
I read an article in the Washington Post titled- “Americans are treated, and overtreated, to death,” which I thought would be about the way doctors subject patients to tests, procedures, etc.. that they do not necessarily need in an effort to not be sued. Sadly, the article was about something altogether different.     

The article starts out by describing how Rosaria Vandenberg had endured two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation for an incurable brain tumor. After months of tubes and machines, Rosaria went home to spend her final moments with her 2-year-old daughter. She died the next day. The family says that those moments with her daughter could have been longer if only they would have known to talk about alternatives to the aggressive treatment Rosaria underwent. Rosaria’s sister-in-law, Alexandra Drane said, “We would have had a very different discussion about that second surgery and chemotherapy. We might have just taken her home and stuck her in a beautiful chair outside under the sun and let her gorgeous little daughter play around her.”

Several alike stories were included by families of those that lost their life to terminal illness. These families are hurting. They have lost a loved one and feel like tubes and machines robbed them of their “goodbye.” However, each person chooses their path; I seriously doubt that any one of these patients were told that they MUST undergo any of the treatments. 

The article goes on to say that 80% of patients say that they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care when dying. However, that number is not representative of what is actually happening, as the article claims that hospitalizations during the last six months of life has risen from 1,302 per 1,000 Medicare recipients in 1996 to 1,441 in 2005. So, it really does not matter what people say…it matters what they do!

It seemed almost like the writer was putting a price on life after he made several references to things like…the last two years of chronic illness treatment “gobbles up” one-third of all Medicare dollars and people are “racking up bills that have made medical care a leading cause of bankruptcies.”

Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, backs up the articles theme by claiming patients are actually sicker as they die. He says that families may push for treatment, but "there are worse things than having someone you love die." Humm, I can think of worse things than my computer blowing up in my face, but that does not mean that I am not going to do everything possible to keep it from happening.

Another point the article tried to drive home was blame-  many doctors practice “exhaustive medicine” even when they know that the illness is incurable and many patients don’t want to give up. Dr. Porter Storey, an executive vice president of a hospice group, says that instead of fighting, we should be helping patients and families accept death as an inevitable part of life. Ahhh…yeah death is inevitable, but fighting for life is the root from which current lifesaving medications and procedures were invented. Everything was incurable until a cure was fought for, or at least sought after. For example, before the invention of insulin in the 1920‘s, many diabetics faced a slow and certain death. Imagine if Dr. Frederick Banting had shared the faulty logic that every medical happening is just part of an inevitable path to death and not fought to provide a life extender via insulin!  

Finally, the article pointed out that patients and their families ultimately make their own end of life path. In my opinion, it is it kind of hard to acknowledge that this is a personal decision all while bashing the decision that the majority of terminally ill patients opt for. A person has every right to seek out every option they have when they are faced with a terminal illness, no matter how remote the chance of success might be, no matter how expensive it is, no matter what their family thinks they should do. They also have the right to decline treatment. Whatever they choose to do, we should not judge, but rather support.


Cruiselife & Co said...

This is a very touchy subject. On one hand I believe if I were in this situation, I would want the choice whether I live or die. Since when do we lose all rights when we are dying? It's as if our life meant nothing.

jo oliver said...

I agree Lauren. I think it is up to each and everyone of us to personally decide with our doctor what, if any, treatment we opt for. Our family, society, gov, etc.. should not make one feel guilty over their choice. That is what irritated me about the article...the author suggest that the matter is a personal choice, but the entire article is an effort to make people feel guilty unless they make the choice that best suits society and family.

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