Americans are increasingly coming to terms with their mortality. This insight is reflected in the growing popularity of personal narratives, best-selling books, and social entrepreneurs' projects about death and dying. Doctors can be valuable guides in this process. However, they often die differently than most people, often avoiding the same late-stage treatments they prescribe for patients. The experiences of dying doctors can teach us about living fully for whatever time we each have left.
Ira Byock, M.D. posted an article in the New York Times titled “At the End of Life, What Would Doctors Do?" In it, she provides a few examples of physicians' revelations at end of life.
As a physician, I have often thought about how my end-of-life experience will be. Like the physicians above, I come to grips with the reality that it will happen. To be present, and appreciate the relationships around me, is important. The experiences of these doctors and my own thoughts, show that it is possible to find meaning and joy in the face of death. They also suggest that the medicalization of dying can be a way of avoiding the reality of death. By talking about death and dying more openly, we can learn to live more fully and appreciate the time we have. I encourage you to contact your health provider and start your end-of-life care plan and get it documented. You can always make changes as your opinion changes about death and how you want your end-of-life experience to be.