An article written by Dr. Jacquelyn Corley on CNN titled “Why Doctor’s Choose to Die Differently” explains why doctors are less likely to demand aggressive end-of-life care than the general public.
In the article, Dr. Corley shares a story of a patient who had suffered a massive hypertensive hemorrhage. Within two days, tests revealed that brain stem reflexes were lost and the patient would never recover. Nevertheless, the patient’s spouse insisted that doctors continue life sustaining treatment until his body failed.
Before his death three weeks later, the patient had been subjected to surgery, countless blood tests and neurological exams, and CT and MRI scans that the doctors knew were pointless, something the Dr. Corley explained no doctor would wish for themselves or a loved one:
We can sustain a pumping heart and fill lungs with air indefinitely. Kidney function can now be replaced by humming dialysis carts and stomachs fed through surgically implanted tubes. In the intensive care unit, this process is carried on with extreme monotony, indifferent to whether the patient is actually able to think, feel, or protest. There comes a time for every person when his or her identity is gone, and the quality of life should be valued more than the mere presence of it.
Dr. Corley explained that often family members insist on continuing care because they believe that is what the patient would have wanted.
So if you want something different, it’s important to memorialize your wishes with a Directive to Physicians.
A Directive to Physicians will allow you to specify what life sustaining treatments should be administered or withheld if you’re diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition and can relieve loved ones of a lot of stress they may feel in making these decisions without your guidance.