Living longer may not be better - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Living longer may not be better

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(07/31/12) - Medical science has gotten too good at preventing death; at least, that is what some experts are saying. Medical technology is keeping a lot of us around longer, but longer may not be better when it comes to quality of life.

Doctors told Judy Lucas and her husband, George, that he had fatal pancreatic cancer. "We were shocked, absolutely shocked."

George decided he wanted to die without harsh treatments wearing him down. It is a manner of death Dr. Len Murray says most physicians would choose themselves.

"These things, I think most doctors don't look at as prolonging life. They look at it as prolonging death," says Murray, the author of "How Doctors Die".

He writes about how so many of his colleagues, when it comes to their own care, refuse dialysis, ventilators, and most commonly, resuscitation.

"I've done it hundreds of times, and I can count on one hand, the people who actually did OK."

He describes aggressive treatment at the end of life as "misery we would not inflict on a terrorist".

Another author, Dr. Ira Byock, who penned "Best Care Possible," agrees. "People are sicker now before they die than at any time in human history."

Dr. Byock says dying is becoming harder for both patients and their families. "The fact is there are worse things than having someone you love die. Most basically, it's having the person you love die badly."

For George and Judy, hospice care has made a difficult time a little easier. "Yeah, it's been good. It's been good," Judy says.

If you are a "dollars and cents" person, in 2009, Medicare spent $50 billion for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients' lives.

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