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How Doctors Choose to Die–NYU’s Love & Let Die symposium

A discussion of Radiolab’s podcast, “The Bitter End.” Doctors reveal, how by and large, doctors emphatically don’t want any heroic efforts expended on their behalf in the face of terminal illness, and why.

Appearing with hosts Jad Abumrad and Sean Cole are Joseph Gallo MD MPH and Professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Gallo directs a longitudinal study of physicians consisting of the medical school classes of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine between 1948 and 1964. It is one of the longest running studies of aging in the world. Every three years since 1999, about 800 physicians has been asked about preferences for end-of-life care for themselves, should they become incapacitated to express their own wishes.

Ken Murray, MD, is a retired family doctor in private practice for 30 years, and taught at USC, and was the Founding Medical Director of Lakeside Medical Group in Burbank, California. His essay “How Doctors Die”, on end-of-life care gained national attention last year, was in competition for the Pulitzer Prize, and was published in the book Best American Essays 2012. He asked all of his patients on their first visit how they wished to die so that he would be able to comply with their wishes.

During the question and answer period at the end a person who had just finished CPR training stated that she was taught that it will NOT be like it is on TV, that the person will jump up and walk away. The success rate in a healthy person is about 8%. Dr. Murray pointed out that for a person at the end of their life, while they may be resuscitated with CPR successfully, within 48 hours 100% of them are dead.

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