I want to draw people’s attention to a fantastic new piece in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande titled, “Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?” The stories told are raw and emotional, and offer glimpses into the struggles of patients with life-threatening illnesses, family caregivers, nurses, and physicians. The hospice nurse in the article is both empathetic and very direct at the same time, in a very Boston sort of way. I was trained by the physicians mentioned in the story (Block, Marcoux, Morris, Nowak, and even Gawande for a day). These are some of the best physicians in the world. And yet these stellar physicians – including Susan Block, perhaps the world’s foremost communication specialist – struggle to talk with patients and family members about the one clinical event everyone is 100% going to experience: death. Gawande does an outstanding job weaving patient stories, research findings, and health policy with the inner perspectives of physicians and nurses. He gives the richest and most heartfelt account I have seen of the current state of the national convesation on death, difficult conversations, costs of care at the end-of-life, and quality of life. I recommend that everyone read it. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
by: Alex Smith