In today’s world, medical technology has developed to such an extent that it can greatly intervene and save many lives. Got into an accident? ‘We’ll save you! We have the medicine and the machines to make sure you are still breathing!’ Born premature and in poor health? ‘We can revive and make sure the baby lives!’ Have a terminal illness? ‘Don’t lose hope – here are all your options and we can do this treatment and that treatment…’ Getting ‘old’? ‘There are treatments that we can provide in order to prolong your life!’
Dying is an inevitability; but the definition of the term ‘dying’ has become muddled. Are you dying when you have a terminal illness? Should you be left to die if you got into an accident, and are very severely injured? Would you be dying without medical intervention, or would you be ‘actually’ dying when all medical intervention and care fails?
The case of Sara Monopoli in Atul Gawande’s argues the reintroduction of what doctors should pertain to do: ‘heal’. When a treatment is only going to leave a patient more fatigued, tired and infested with so many side effects – are the doctors really acting in the interest of the patient? Are the doctors really abiding to healing and easing the patient’s pain?
Too many people in the world today overestimate the power of medical technology – yes it can save lives when done right; but not every medical case is like the other and a doctor is not God.
Sara was a ‘fighter’, but ultimately did she get to die in the place, or the way she had wanted to? Sara and her family placed and invested all their hopes in the success of her treatment, but can we possibly think Sara had enough time with to spend with her family, as the treatments took so much of her time? Can we possibly think Sara died happy and content?
Sara’s case is not the first case that has ended unhappily even after extensive medical interference. What should doctors and the medicine industry really be doing when it can no longer save a person’s life?
Hospice care is shining star in medicine. Hospice refocuses on providing the ‘quality’ of life to patients – it discusses what can be done to reduce pain and still allow patients to be able to go around do daily activities of life and at the same time, be able to spend time with family and loved ones.
Doctors, should be able to sit down with families and patients and discuss the treatments available, and also the treatments side-effects etc. Doctors should request patients to discuss what they’d prefer, instead of ‘recommending’ the patient on the ‘best discourse to follow’. Ultimately doctors should stop overestimating the success of alleged treatments and miraculous patients, and be realistic with themselves and with the patients and the patient’s family.
‘What’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken.’ This paradoxical statement attempts to explain that doctors and loved ones should know when to stop forcing treatments on a patient when it is causing more deterioration and strain on the patient then showing positive outcomes. When nothing else can be done to save one’s life, doctors should just focus on helping patient’s cope with their pain and help ease the pain too.
As a society too, people have to start thinking: are you really living when you are hooked up onto multiple medical instruments and medicine? If that is no way to live, then is that a proper way to die?
Reminder: Living the moments is more essential. Quality of life over the quantity is more essential.