There must be a better way
- By: Eleanor Barkell
Since leaving medical school I have had little practical experience in dealing with patients who are terminally ill. I have, however, been involved with a case that has changed my view of my chosen profession as I watched powerlessly as a 61 year old widow slowly succumbed to metastatic oesophageal carcinoma.
I shuddered when she first described to me her symptoms of progressive dysphagia, and envisaging the nightmare that would follow I tried to be positive, while waiting for the inevitable diagnosis. Over the next eight months I watched in horror as she was treated not as an intelligent woman who was dying of a cruel incurable cancer but as a disease.
From the moment of diagnosis to her death her prognosis was not mentioned to her. I listened incredulously as she agreed to her radiotherapy and chemotherapy - hastily explained and certainly not with real “informed consent.” Meanwhile her