“If you don’t want to deal with death and dying, then you need to quit medicine now and become an accountant…because this is what we have signed up for and we’ve got to do a better job at it.”
These were some of my opening words at the Grand Rounds I recently gave at my medical school alma mater. More than a few doctors looked taken aback, others nodded their heads in agreement.
We are in a weird place in medical history. We have rapidly advanced, technologically, in the span of one human life time from simple penicillin to laser guided gamma knives. We are so consumed by all of this sexy medical technology that we are giving the general public the idea that we have the “eternity pill” or something. Not the case. This is certainly not helped by the fact that the medical profession has lost its ability to speak of death and to teach of its certainty. So, in honor of my earlier reference to accounting, here is my mathematical expression of our problem:
High Tech + Absent Death Awareness= Irrational Expectations @ the End of Life
Hmm…now I’m no rocket scientist (nor am I an accountant), but I’m pretty clear that the solution to the problem is changing the “death awareness” variable since we are not going to waste our technological advances:
High Tech + Death Awareness= Reasonable Expectations @ the End of life
So, to all of you medical students and residents (and seasoned attendings) out there: One of the most important facts of life is that it ends. It is moral medical malpractice not to tell your patients where they are in the “map of life.” With as much effort as we put forth to give patients a good life, we should also give them a good death. Patients and families need to hear the “facts of life,” delivered compassionately, from you…otherwise, you might need to look into accounting.
Monica Williams-Murphy, MD
|Our Book: It's OK to Die|
"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.