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Friday, February 22, 2008

Susan Sontag's choice for aggressive care

David Rieff's story on his mother, Susan Sontag
What my mother wanted – which was to undergo any treatment, no matter how terrible, that promised a cure for her disease – would probably have been viewed skeptically by a physician schooled in what Dr. Jerome Groopman calls the "bean counting" of evidence-based medicine. But doctors like Nimer and Groopman hold that their mission is to try to treat their patients as their patients want to be treated until doing so can be called with assurance (rather than in terms of probability alone) medically futile.

Obviously, there is a cost to this. In opting for treatment – in her case, a bone-marrow transplant – my mother suffered far more physically than she would have had she opted for palliative care alone. But in honoring her wishes, without for a moment understating the risks, her doctors opted for treating her in the full, human sense of the word.

Advice: Find a doctor who takes to heart your preferences about risks and benefits, and the degree of aggressiveness you want in your care.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read another story from David’s book.

Thanks to David Rieff for the source story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, drawn from his book, Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i agree that errors do occur.. but this is really scary to say the least..i mean what surety we have .. how can be anyone relaxed going to a operation...and most scary part is that we don't have a alternate way to it..

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