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Learning from Doctors

Posted 11/22/2013

Posted in

  This is an introduction to an extraordinary essay from The New York Times. It is about Dr. Elizabeth McKinley's choice to stop treatment for her advanced cancer. The title of the piece suggests that this is a common choice among physicians, and perhaps it is. My personal experience has not always supported that. In fact, it has been a humbling  and important lesson for me to watch my friends and colleagues sometimes make choices for themselves, at the end of life, that they have not made or suggested to their patients. It all reminds me, once again, that we can't possibly know what we would choose until we are faced with the question.

  I will go on the record now by saying that I sincerely hope that I would be as brave as Dr. McKinley and opt to be home with people I love. There is also the important factor of what is possible and right for our families, and this is a discussion that I wrote about last week. It needs to happen.

  Here is the start and then a link to this wonderful essay. Please do read it.

How Doctors Die: Showing Others the Way

BRAVE. You hear that word a lot when people are sick. It’s all about the fight, the survival instinct, the courage. But when Dr. Elizabeth D. McKinley’s family and friends talk about bravery, it is not so much about the way Dr. McKinley, a 53-year-old internist from Cleveland, battled breast cancer for 17 years. It is about the courage she has shown in doing something so few of us are able to do: stop fighting.

This spring, after Dr. McKinley’s cancer found its way into her liver and lungs and the tissue surrounding her brain, she was told she had two options.

“You can put chemotherapy directly into your brain, or total brain radiation,” she recalled recently from her home in suburban Cleveland. “I’m looking at these drugs head-on and either one would change me significantly. I didn’t want that.” She also did not want to endure the side effects of radiation.


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