Prolonging Dying, Not Living

Majid Ali, M.D.

A society that pays most for prolonging the process of dying deserves what it pays for. Here are some real quotes:

* “She conned me into doing this.” An orthopedic surgeon defending his surgery for hip replacement on a 93-year woman who had been bed-ridden for three years.

* “We know chemotherapy does not work for aggressive cancer of pancreas. Still I gave her the treatment for its anecdotal value.” An oncologist responding to a question in a hospital cancer.

* “I had to do something.” A surgeon talking about fifth surgery for melanoma for a patient who died three weeks later.

* “We have always known coronary stents do not save lives.” A cardiology professor responding to a question from a reporter of the The New York Times.

* “Don’t you give up on me,” demands a man with cancer, though the surgery he wants cannot possibly cure him. “He was pursuing little more than a fantasy at the risk of a prolonged and terrible death — which was precisely what he got.” Atul Gawande in his book Being Mortal.

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