Medical advances have come a long way in extending the lives of patients who have chronic or terminal illnesses. We are able to treat people for long periods of time, who without these advances, would have died shortly after their diagnosis. Through all of this, though, we still know that death is inevitable. So, what should we do when medicine fails and cannot keep patients alive any longer?
To me, the answer seems obvious. If we cannot increase the quantity of time someone has left to live, then we should focus instead on increasing the quality of their time. The answer also comes in the form of palliative care and hospice care. These types of care aim at making patients feel more comfortable, with the least amount of pain possible, with less focus on curative care. They stop trying to cure the patient and start to manage their pain, physically and emotionally. The practice of hospice includes providing comfort and education to families of the patients as well. In the article we read about the hospice nurse that visited Dave and Sharon. Dave was a 42 year old with pancreatic cancer. His wife Sharon wanted to provide his care. The hospice nurse comes by to educate Sharon on how she can help her husband. The hospice nurse brings by medication to help Dave feel more comfortable and to feel less pain. The article also says that in a study researchers were able to find that those patients who opted for hospice care lived longer than those who instead chose to continue rigorous treatments. It would seem that hospice patients are happier and have a more optimistic mindset.
When medicine is no longer available to cure patients, it should be used to increase their quality of life. In my opinion it is better to enjoy the amount of time you have left, than to decrease the quality trying to avoid unavoidable death.