Monday, July 26, 2010

Atul Gawande Checks Out Hospice and Palliative Care

Hopefully most of you have heard of Atul Gawande, one of the more prolific and best physician writers of the past decade.  You may have even read one of his books: Better, Complications, or The Checklist Manifesto.  I was curious if he was going to get around to focusing on palliative care. The New Yorker published his latest article, called 'Letting Go' early online for the August 2nd edition of the magazine.



I would reccommend this article if only for the fact, that many of your peers, fmaily and firends will likely be coming across it in the next week or two and be forwarding it to you.  Therefore having already read the article you can start engaging the helpful friend, rather than saying 'Thanks! I'll make sure to read it", which means you may never read it, which means you lost an opportunity to talk about our field.  Share it with your teams.  I will bring copies of it to my palliative home care team meeting in the morning.

There are some great quotes in the article and likely nothing will be new to anyone in the field, but it is good to know how the public perceives this.

Recently, while seeing a patient in an intensive-care unit at my hospital, I stopped to talk with the critical-care physician on duty, someone I’d known since college. “I’m running a warehouse for the dying,” she said bleakly. Out of the ten patients in her unit, she said, only two were likely to leave the hospital for any length of time.

And if you have some time, try and carve out a little time on Wednesday afternoon to 'Ask the Author' when he gets online to answer questions from the public.  Scott Lake, MD suggested to me it would be great to have some hospice and palliative medicine professionals calling in and asking questions too.

And as a final commentary, -2 points to The New Yorker for uninspiring 'empty bed/chair' imagery to lead into the article. -3 bonus points for extra creepy 'Happy Birthday' balloon.  To use a cliched image like this to lead an article with themes of death just reinforces the isolation, despair, hopelessness and ignores the life and joy that can come near the end of life with good support. BUT, + 10 points for the photo credit which led me to find Phillip Toledano's photo editorial website 'Days With My Father.'  Awesome site and a place where that image makes sense in a larger context.

So what did you think of the article?

For more commentary see Metafilter (premiere website for finding interesting things on the web)
(Article found via Twitter from Dr. Scott Lake who Re-tweeted from Dr. Marcin Chwistek

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