According to the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians, patients should be treated to the best of the doctor’s ability. But what if the patient is a doctor him or herself, and refuses treatment?
University of Southern California family medicine professor and retired doctor Ken Murray has struck a poignant chord, about just that, with his article “How Doctors Die: It’s Not Like the Rest of Us, But It Should Be.” The story, published on the website Zocalo Public Square, explores the reasons why American doctors facing death, in Murray’s experience, tend to calmly forgo the medical care they themselves administer and preach. Already intimately exposed to instances of expensive, lengthy and at times anguishing medical care, he says, while treating people, doctors tend to want to die peacefully at home or in a hospice, without enduring multiple surgical procedures in a hospital. He ends his article, stating, “If there is a state of the art of end-of-life care, it is this: death with dignity. As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night.”
How do you feel about doctors forgoing the medical care they themselves administer? Have you spoken to your own doctor about his or her end-of-life treatment plans?
Ken Murray, MD, clinical assistant professor, family medicine, USC