Magazine article Psychology Today

Dispatches from the End of Life

Magazine article Psychology Today

Dispatches from the End of Life

Article excerpt

MEDICAL ADVANCES have shifted the boundary between life and death, raising controversial questions for doctors and patients. Physician Haider Warraich zooms in on these issues in Modem Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life, supplementing medical history with tales from the life-death border that are disturbing, bewildering, and inspiring. -MATTHUSTON

Some of your cases involve deep uncertainty-in one, it's unclear whether the patient is even alive. I think for many patients, the only thing worse than abad diagnosis is not knowing what's going on. At times I feel the need to simplify a complex situation. But when I know that there is no right answer, I tell patients, "Hey, we actually don't know." Sometimes that helps to ease some of their frustrations.

More people are spending their final days in hospitals and nursing homes. Why is the question of where we die so urgent? The vast majority of people, when surveyed, say that they want to die at home. People are used to being able to control things-not big things, but small things. At the hospital they lose all control over their schedule. They can't get out of bed without an alarm going off. They can't have a meal without their blood sugar being checked. …

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