Sunday, November 23, 2014

Adventures in Palliative Care

I spent a few weeks on a few weeks on the palliative care service at Loma Linda University Medical Center.  It was such a unique experience - a walk on the other side of medicine, where the focus is not on a cure.  What happens when there's nothing more that can be done to cure a patient's illness?  What if the quality of life is so low the patient decides it's not worth prolonging?  By withdrawing treatment in a terminal patient are we killing them?  These are some of the difficult questions I encountered in palliative are.  None has an easy answer, and each patient and healthcare provider reacts differently.

This is a cartoon depiction of the different ways I observed individuals react to the end of life.  There's the compulsive physician who will only continue to "fight" for his patient's life, regardless of other factors.  Then there's the patient who clings to the nebulous promise of modern science to find the cure for his terminal cancer, he is desperate, and asks every day if I've found the "miracle pill."  Of course, there's the family of a terminal patient.  Their loved one just wants to "Die in peace," but they won't hear of it.  They beg, plead, and threaten the patient and the medical team in an attempt to delay the inevitable.  And finally, there's the case where everyone can work together to help the terminal patient live out their remaining time comfortably, in a place they love, and with the people they love.  Here are The Adventures in Palliative Care.

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