October 28, 2015 | Durango Herald
by Dr. Matthew A. Clark
For many reasons, few of us like to reflect on our own mortality or the circumstances that may accompany our death.
But the fact of the matter, of course, is that each of us will die some day, and there are some important things that we can think about and plan for, which may enhance the dignity of the dying process.
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Like many such observances, the goal is to raise awareness about a topic with which many Americans are unfamiliar.
The majority of the leading causes of death in America are chronic diseases, ranging from cardiovascular disease and cancer to dementia, chronic lung disease and chronic kidney disease. Therefore, it is not unusual for a long and gradual decline to precede the terminal stage of disease and ultimate death.
Complications of chronic disease may impact quality of life. It is not unusual for both the disease itself and associated medical interventions to lead to suffering.
Modern medicine has created for us a paradox insomuch as we have developed advanced technologies to address serious disease but which may afford little hope of cure and which may enhance suffering or even accelerate death.
Yet modern medicine has also evolved to provide interventions designed to reduce suffering, enhance independence, empower patients with a renewed sense of control and dignify the dying process. Our humanity dictates that these goals are at least as important as prolonging life.
For those suffering from a potentially terminal illness, palliative care and hospice offer a continuum of options designed to address these noble goals.