The Secret Lives of Doctors

What is it that doctors actually do medically in personal situations at the end of their lives? How do they treat themselves? In a terminal situation what do they do for themselves that’s different from what they do for other people in the same situation?

I read a doctor’s account about how his friend, a fellow doctor, responded to being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His insider knowledge and experience mix together for a course of action that might surprise the lay public.

After his diagnosis, the doctor eschewed chemo, radiation, and surgery. Instead he spent his last several months at home trying to enjoy the rest of his life with his friends and family.

The doctor with cancer knew what was going to happen and what his options were. And he didn’t have to worry about exercising the simplest option, doing as little as necessary. He couldn’t get into trouble, as he might have if dealing with a patient, for not using extraordinary efforts – for likely minimal gains in extra time in a probably lower quality life. The expense in terms of pain and money, along with the time spent in a hospital, don’t generally pay off.

The take away from this doctor’s story is that his story is not unique amongst doctors. They’ve seen enough people at the end of life and know what can be done to prolong lives. And of course, they have access to those treatments. But it seems their secret is that they prefer to go peacefully and gently, on their own terms.