As an experienced Elder Law attorney, it still breaks my heart each time a client believes that chemotherapy can actually cure his/her terminal cancer. And, sadly, it’s not uncommon; many patients with Stage 4 cancer undergo chemotherapy because they believe it might cure them.
That, to me, is an incredible indictment of our medical system, in which too few doctors ever have end-of-life discussions with terminal patients. And in which too few terminal patients ever realize they have choices.
In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, about 75% of patients with terminal cancer actually believed that chemotherapy could cure them, rather than simply keep them alive a little longer. The study concluded that most terminal patients don’t understand that chemotherapy doesn’t buy a cure…it only buys a little more time.
When it can truly relive pain, chemotherapy is warranted. But if it’s merely to extend life, patients – and families – may be operating under an extreme misperception.
Aggressive chemotherapy merely to extend life can actually compromise the quality of remaining life. It may result in putting off discussions that should take place NOW. And it delays entrance to hospice, which offers patients the chance to die with dignity, without being hooked up to machines and without being in pain. (Several studies have shown that terminal patients actually live longer on hospice than in hospitals.)
Doctors should be asking patients how much they actually know about their cancer. How much they want to know. Who else they’d like included in the discussion. And what issues are really important to them.
In our society, doctors are trained to cure, not to question. But patients have a right to know. And to decide for themselves.
These are the hardest questions families will ever face. But we can help.
At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates, we’ve been answering these questions for 34 years – and we’ve helped thousands of South Florida families. We’ve helped them prepare in advance, as well, with comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset-protection plans, and assistance with Medicaid and the VA.
We can help. And we’re just a phone call away.
You Can’t Cure Terminal Illness!