Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Dying with less expense and more dignity

I ran across an interesting article at, Harry and Louis Must Die, by Anne Moore who notes that next year we will spend 135 billion dollars on end of life care. She writes in part,
In a study of terminally ill patients, one group received preventive care until death. The other group chose to be treated for pain with drugs, typically morphine, in a hospice setting. Which group lived longer? Patients treated only for pain lived 29 days more.

Hospice focuses on comforting the terminally ill patient and family, at a health facility or at home, the last six months of life. If a terminally ill person in hospice stops breathing, they die. If their heart stops, they die. If they stop eating, they'll die within weeks.

If a terminally ill person who's hospitalized stops breathing, they're intubated. If their heart stops, they're resuscitated. If they stop eating, a feeding tube is implanted. Death is prevented, life is extended — but the person is still terminally ill with cancer, or kidney disease, or heart disease or diseases of the brain.
She writes of the high cost of end of life care, but ranges farther in ending by writing,
We can change. We can die with dignity and love, less expensively. We can put our fears to rest. Fill out a living will; say no to excessive care. Own the way you die. And die as you lived, surrounded by family and friends.
I have written on this in a religion column Belief and Practice at the End of Our Lives. The basic point is that returning someone to health is always the right option. But when a return to health is not possible, it is a moral choice to treat pain and stop fighting its source. As the article quoted above points out, this can even extend ones life. Not surprising. This choice does after all place the end of our life in God's hands rather than merely in the hands of healthcare professionals, who are required to do as much as we request. That's my take. What's yours?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 8/04/2009 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amen! Just because doctors "can" doesn't mean they "should". Dying with dignity, the least invasive the better, seems less stressful and more peaceful for the survivors too.


Post a Comment

<< Home