A lady suffering from an incurable illness with few days to live is asked what are her priorities. Instead of remaining in hospital, she decides she wants pain relief to give her “the best day today” and manages to go home and spend her time in relative comfort and achieving many of her goals.
This is a true story recounted in this week’s Reith Lecture by Atul Gawande before an audience in Edinburgh, and now available on BBC’s I-player. Gawande perceives that if only medics (and family) would ask simple questions about a sufferer’s understanding of where they are in their illness, end of life care could be managed with greater humanity.
It is an approach that is gradually gaining support even amongst medics, who appreciate that their primary goal should not always be to prolong life at any cost. The hospice movement is spreading its wings, becoming known for the value it places on giving those close to death what they want, rather than running places where people simply go to die.
Do listen to Gawande’s lecture “The Problem of Hubris” if you have a moment.