The relationships between the doctor and the patient are considered instrumental in the process of dealing with a serious health issue. But when it comes to the times when both parties decide that medication is not an option anymore, the relationships may undergo some struggles. The PBS documentary ‘Being Mortal’ based on the best seller by Atul Gawande explores the complicated issues faced by the doctors and their terminal patients when it comes to the choices of further medical intervention versus making the most of the time before passing away. Moreover, the doctors have great difficulties with having a serious discussion about the end of the patients’ lives as well as in understanding that it is crucial to “tune treatment to the patient’s priorities and those aren’t always just living longer”.
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To make the right decision about the terminal illness, patients, doctors, relatives and caregivers have to have a courage and strength and think rationally, considering every single detail and weighing every advantage and disadvantage of during peacefully or pursuing a medical treatment that does not have any guarantees. Dr. Gawande underlines the importance of considering what treatment means for the quality of life at the end, as sometimes in medicine there are so many unfixable problems that doctors and their patients do not want to realize that they are, indeed, unfixable.
The main message of ‘Being Mortal’ is that in the end, it is better to be a person and not a patient. Coming to a close with life in dignity and peace should become the most fundamental principle that guides the relationships between a terminally ill patient and the doctor, because, in the end, we are all people who want to be treated with respect.
Issues Applied to ERDs
There is a close connection between the problems discussed in the documentary ‘Being Mortal’ with the issues stated in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The religious background of some statements may be irrelevant to the case, but when it comes to the issues addressed about rejecting life-prolonging procedures that are insufficient or burdensome, they have some strong ground. Despite the fact that modern medicine is constantly evolving, some terminate health conditions cannot be treated for now, and thus, the task of medicine in such complicated cases is to care.
Giving terminally ill patients full information about their state helps them to understand their condition and be able to discuss it without fear it with relatives or caretakers. As shown in the documentary, being honest and supportive of the patient allows the doctor to discuss all minute details about making the best of time left for the patient.
Dr. Gawande said that “It’s easy for all of us, patients and doctors, to fall back on looking for what more we can do regardless of what we might be sacrificing along the way”. ‘Being Mortal’ offered practical information to the doctors, their patients and relatives who are dealing with life-threatening diseases. Talking about every single detail, asking important questions and creating an end-of-life plan can be instrumental in eliminating any uncertainties and making sure that the patients live the last days of their lives as individuals, valued and respected, as well as to deserving of good moments even facing the life’s ending.