Many people lament and debate the rising cost of health care, the looming human resource shortages that could leave many baby boomers scrambling for care. But with my own recent exposure to the health care system I can say with confidence that the greatest gifts my family doctor, Dr. Leah Norgrove and nephrologist Dr. John Antonsen have given me is their time and their unfailing compassion. I have never for a moment felt like a nuisance in their presence - never felt like my questions, concerns or secrets weren't treated with the utmost reverence or respect. Being heard is among the most valuable things these amazing individuals have given me - and while I fully appreciate their time comes with a cost - it is not the interventions, equipment or devices that give me comfort...it is their consistent and embracing care.
At their current convention, the Canadian Medical Association spent a lot of time discussing end-of-life care but stopped short of a discussion of physicians aiding patients in their choices in those critical moments. I truly wonder why we are so loathe to contemplate that when we freely accept veterinarians putting our beloved pets out of their misery when they are suffering and in pain. It is not just a question of the exorbitant resources we expend as a society in patient's final years (and it is a fact that the greatest health care costs accompany the last ten to fifteen years of our lives) but the notion we accept the suffering that these interventions entail as a good thing and often families push for more in their guilt and grief. I don't think any reasonable discussion about end-of-life care can ignore a patient's right to say they have had enough - and it is cowardice that prevents us from tackling a discussion about how and when easing someone into the light is acceptable.