Why Torture Patients at the End of Life?

We wouldn’t do it to a pet. So why do it to mom and dad? Here is a doctor’s plea:

[W]ithout a realistic, tactile sense of how much a worn-out elderly patient is suffering, it’s easy for patients and families to keep insisting on more tests, more medications, more procedures. … When their loved one does die, family members can tell themselves, “We did everything we could for Mom.” … At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture. When a case such as this comes along, nurses, physicians and therapists sometimes feel conflicted and immoral. … A retired nurse once wrote to me: “I am so glad I don’t have to hurt old people anymore.”

Full Washington Post editorial via Robin Hanson.

Comments (4)

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  1. Buster says:

    Doctors themselves often choose to die without these futile, aggressive medical interventions. I don’t know why the adult children of elderly patients cannot accept that death is inevitable. Often it’s the wishes of just one, inconsolable adult offspring that holds up the process of allowing death to run its course. Medicare pays the costs, while the patient suffers the torture.

  2. Linda Gorman says:

    Most families do this? Really? How do we know this isn’t another story designed to make it easier for people to accept death panels?

  3. Eric says:

    @Linda Gorman

    Death panels again? I thought we were past that nonsense.