Physician - heal thyself?
- By: Sonali Dutta
A woman who had been recently diagnosed as having cancer decided not to accept any treatment because she felt that there was ‘no point.’ I was surprised by this because the chances sounded quite good to me.
Two years have later I have seen patients with quite different attitudes towards the news of their own deaths—tears, shock, lack of surprise, and complete denial. These experiences have challenged my own attitude towards death, particularly after I spent a module in intensive care. I watched as obviously dying patients were treated incredibly—and often unnecessarily—aggressively and then died anyway. One doctor quite rightly pointed out to me, however, that 20 years ago, patients were unlikely to survive heart transplants. Now their chances are good—an argument that we should treat all patients with uncompromising aggression, regardless of age or infirmity, to optimise treatments in the future. The decision of whether or not to treat