Today, most children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia — the most common type — survive. But in the past, we oncologists significantly underestimated the cost of that survival.
I am writing this as I return from a UN-based meeting in the USA following up on the meeting at which I was invited to talk about the first Hair for Hospices in 2012. Many remembered my presentation and had participated last year and plan to do so again this year. However, I was very touched by a small number of colleagues who spoke to me privately to tell me of serious and terminal illness that had been diagnosed in their family members since last year.
Learning how to speak with patients about end-of-life topics is often anxiety provoking for medical trainees. However, it also provides a unique opportunity for personal growth. The surprising reward of having such a conversation is presented in this reflection.
With a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, I’ve always had a great interest in religion, but I’ve never practiced one myself. After I received a diagnosis of an aggressive form of leukemia at the age of 22, I put my faith in medicine.
I mentioned in a previous post an incident in which Marja uncharacteristically didn’t get home until after midnight and I didn’t know where she was. Terror moved into a place just under the surface of my emotions. I realized then that a crucial reason I’ve been able to live without much fear of the future is my assumption that Marja will be there to accompany me through this illness.
Give Representative Earl Blumenauer, a nine-term Democrat from Oregon, credit for two things. First, a sense of humor: He began an op-ed piece he wrote for The New York Times a few years back with, “I didn’t mean to kill Grandma.” He sometimes adopts the very phrase he got slurred with in 2010, referring to himself, ironically, as “the death-panel guy,” just as the president and his administration now embrace “Obamacare.”
Things just seem “different” when someone “prematurely” dies. Regardless of my own feelings about what is right or wrong, moral or ethical, with what many people refer to as “physician assisted death”; Death with Dignity (DWD) is a legal course of action in the state of Washington and Oregon. This means a person who is known to be terminally ill, attested to by two physicians and meeting all the criteria, can receive a prescription which they must be able to take on their own to end their life, at their chosen time and in their chosen way.
Amongst other things, Dr Frank Brennan is a passionate storyteller and gifted palliative care physician. ehospice caught up with Dr Brennan ahead of his address at the 12th Australian Palliative Care Conference to be held on 3-6 September.