Los Angeles Times: “I could show you case after case,” said Dr. Neil S. Wenger. “I could bet you million-to-1 odds these patients would not want to be in this situation.”
He was talking about patients in critical condition who are “attached to machines, being kept alive” in hospitals, many of them suffering.
A common reason for that, said Wenger, director of UCLA's Health System Ethics Center, is that fewer than one-third of us make our healthcare wishes known in advance of critical illness or injury. So if we end up comatose after an accident, or with severe memory loss in old age, we're kept alive, regardless of the cost and regardless of what our wishes might be or how grim the prognosis.
It's understandable. Nobody wants to think in advance about life ending. In our satisfied state of denial, we want to believe medical advances will keep us healthy until we die in our sleep at a ripe old age. But death doesn't always come on our terms, and failing to face up to other possibilities can put crushing burdens on loved ones — not to mention that soaring end-of-life medical costs are at the center of the national budget crisis.
“We use healthcare resources far out of proportion to any other country on the planet,” said Wenger, who researches elder care for the Rand Corp. “We need to have a conversation about where society wants to put its resources