Most of us aren't ready to face or even talk about the end of life. Patients and their families aren't. How could they be? What may surprise you is that physicians, nurses and other health care providers have difficulty recognizing and accepting that their patients have made the turn from curable to comfort measures only. On this episode of White Coat Black Art we come to grips with accepting death and what that means for you.
Hear the story of Margaret Anderson, a woman who used the bitter lessons from her husband Ian Anderson's death to create Ontario's first cancer hospice. It's called Ian Anderson House, and it's a hospice with six bed that has been home to 800 people at the end of life and their families.
Senator Sharon Carstairs talks about the future of palliative care in Canada and what to do about the many aging Canadians who will soon need it. To her, learning to celebrate death as we celebrate birth is Job #1.
In the battle between life and death, it can be as difficult to doctors as it is for patients to recognize that the battle is likely to be lost. Physicians learn about that during their residency years. Supervised by attending physicians, residents are recent graduates who take additional training in everything from family medicine to neurosurgery. When the attending goes home at night, it's you and the resident in a battle to cheat death.
Recently, I had a chance to meet a remarkable group of young residents from McMaster University Medical School. Rick Mann, Nooreen Popat, Clarissa Holding, Andrew Burke and Gaurav Puri sat down with me to talk about what it's like to realize that their patients are at the brink of death. They talked about the burden they carry... a burden about which patients and their families may only have an inkling.
We call this episode 'Circling The Drain' because that's the shorthand we use to describe patients who are approaching the end of life. In my discussion with the residents, we explore the roots of term that encompass everything from gallows humor to dealing with the pain of losing a patient.
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