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Inside E Street

Dying Well

Is aggressive medical treatment of elderly patients the best way for them to spend their last days?

Benjamin Franklin stated famously that the only certainties in the world are death and taxes, but do both need to be drawn-out, painful affairs? Why are we so quick to accept that aggressive medical care is the best way to tackle terminal diseases? Are we choosing to live in pain and discomfort when that might only add a few months of life?

See also: Caregiving Resource Center: end-of-life care.

Statistics show that nearly one-third of all Americans age 65 and over had aggressive surgery in the last year of their lives. Nearly a quarter of Medicare’s budget for people 65 and over, $113 billion, was spent on treating patients during the same phase of life. Many physicians are now saying that the statistics do not reveal the amount of pain and suffering that many of these patients and their families live through. Some believe the emphasis should not be on aggressive medical treatment but instead on enhancing the quality of life in a person’s last days.

Senior cancer patients can opt for palliative care when battling a disease

Is aggressive medical treatment of elderly patients the best way for them to spend their last days? — Gallery Stock

This episode of Inside E Street features Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Ira Byock, author and director of palliative care at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Emanuel discusses the current state of palliative treatment, while Byock talks about his new book, The Best Care Possible, and what can be done to change the culture of end-of-life care.

You may also like: Understanding the needs of the dying.

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