Recommended article: “Why Doctors Die Differently”

Doctors don’t want to die any more than anyone else does. But they usually have talked about the limits of modern medicine with their families. They want to make sure that, when the time comes, no heroic measures are taken.

“Why Doctors Die Differently” was published a few months ago, in the February 25 2012 Wall Street Journal (no subscription needed). It was written by Ken Murray, a retired clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California.

It’s not a very long article, but it’s well worth reading. It’s about how doctors view death — and extreme efforts to push off death just a little bit longer, often at great physical and financial cost — a bit differently than the general public seems to. The article relates that in 2003, a survey of 765 doctors found 64% had created an advanced directive, while only 20% of the general public had.

The statistics on CPR were even more breathtaking:

A study by Susan Diem and others of how CPR is portrayed on TV found that it was successful in 75% of the cases and that 67% of the TV patients went home. In reality, a 2010 study of more than 95,000 cases of CPR found that only 8% of patients survived for more than one month. Of these, only about 3% could lead a mostly normal life.

 

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