A doctor’s perspective on a good death


USA – I was working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as a medical resident when I learned that my 89-year-old grandfather had died. His heart had stopped suddenly, just moments after he emerged from the community pool for his daily exercise. The news came as a shock. Despite a long history of heart disease, his mind was still sharp and we frequently had engaging phone conversations.

But after the initial shock, I looked at my surroundings in the ICU and felt relieved that my grandfather had died a “good death” and not in a hospital.

My work in the hospital, and particularly in the ICU, led me to develop strong opinions about how I wished to die. I saw many patients with advanced medical conditions and poor prognoses spend their last days or weeks in a strange place, receiving intense medical interventions that caused discomfort — like ventilators, central lines, and dialysis — while only negligibly prolonging their lives. Their families not only had to watch their loved ones decline, they also had to deal with challenging and sometimes costly medical decision-making they did not always understand.

One of my ICU patients, with history of a stroke and diabetes, was hospitalized for pneumonia. Like my grandfather, this patient went into cardiac arrest, but we managed to revive him through cardiopulmonary resuscitation. I felt mixed about this “success” because of the patient’s poor prognosis. He spent a week unresponsive before dying in the hospital, while anxious family members returned daily, hoping for an unlikely recovery.

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post website.