You'd think a doctor with, say, a terminal illness or a weak heart would have an inside edge over the rest of us and opt for the most whiz-bang, no-holds-barred treatment available. Just the opposite, writes Ken Murray, MD, in the Zocalo Public Square (as spotted by Andrew Sullivan's blog). Doctors "don't die like the rest of us," writes Murray. "What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little." They have seen first-hand the desperate, expensive, usually futile measures taken to save a life, generally because end-of-life wishes were not explicitly spelled out.
It's all about surgery, tubes, and drugs, and it usually results not in a miracle cure but in astronomical bills and "misery we would not inflict on a terrorist." To illustrate the alternative, Murray shares the story of his cousin, who, upon learning he had terminal lung cancer, opted to forgo intensive chemo and instead moved in with Murray. He lived another eight months, during which the two focused on his quality of life, ate good food, and watched sports. Total medical cost: About $20, for the price of one drug. No wonder, then, that doctors instead often choose to "go gently" at home, writes Murray. The full column, here, is worth a read.