Dr. Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician and author of the new book The Best Care Possible, said advances in medical technology have made the dying process incredibly difficult, as seriously ill and aged patients often undergo unnecessary, costly and painful end of life treatments.
“We live in unprecedented times. We made the process of dying more difficult than it needs to be,” said Byock, a professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. “We have yet to make one person immortal.”
Byock urges physicians and students to make the best of what he calls the most difficult time of human life. “We used to die very quickly from cancer, heart disease or kidney disease. We need to figure out how to help people live as long and healthy as possible and then die peacefully,” he said.
Byock, who has been involved in palliative care since 1978, said he has noticed discussions about end of life and advance care planning becoming more common. “It’s being discussed and accepted. People are also realizing palliative care and hospice is affordable,” he said.
What Byock calls “disease-centered” care- the common practice of treating illness with little regard to the human condition- he believes should become “person-centered” care. “We keep offering them more and more life-sustaining treatments. We should offer them well-being, and their families well-being, too.” Physicians must shift from assuming care for their seriously ill patients, he said. Nearly 20 percent of deaths in the U.S. occur in the intensive care unit.
Adult children caring for sick parents must make sure they have clear authority to speak upon their behalf, Byock added. “By having an advance care directive, controversy may be avoided at the hospital.”
Byock will address nurses, social workers and physicians about the importance of providing the best quality care to their seriously ill patients during the JourneyCare Fall Symposium Nov. 4 and 5 at the Stonegate Conference Center in Hoffman Estates, IL.
Register for the JourneyCare Symposium here
More from Life Matters Media
Award Winning Film ‘The Last Chapter: End Of Life Decisions’ | Chicago Seniors Begin “Starting the Conversation” | Changing The Culture Of End Of Life Care: LMM Addresses Palliative Care Providers