Seeking a ‘Beautiful Death’

Ken Orvidas (NYT)

Ken Orvidas for NYT

By Jane E. Brody
The New York Times Well Blog—February 9, 2015

Virgie Divinigracia had the kind of death last month that most Americans say they want: at home, relieved of physical and mental pain, surrounded by those she loved, “a beautiful death” as those present described it. Alas, this is true for too few Americans. Most still die in costly medical facilities tethered to machines, often unable to communicate, in a futile attempt to prolong their lives.

Dr. Angelo E. Volandes, the author of an enlightening new book, “The Conversation,” said that although Americans received some of the best health care money could buy, “they also experience some of the worst deaths in the developed world,” mainly because people failed to articulate what they wished for at the end of life, and doctors failed “to recognize that fixing specific problems may not fix the whole patient.”

Mrs. Divinigracia’s experience is illustrative. At 88 and in need of full-time care after 10 years with Alzheimer’s disease, she developed acute kidney failure. Her doctor suggested dialysis.

But after a clearheaded review of her prospects, her devoted husband and primary caregiver, Paul, and their son and daughter acknowledged that, had she been able to say so, she would not have chosen aggressive medical treatment that would only further diminish the quality of her remaining days.

And so she lived to have an 89th birthday celebration with her family before deteriorating health prompted a call to hospice for help.

Read the full post here.

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