It was my first day at my new job, practicing a new specialty. Having spent fourteen years as an ICU physician–including a four-year pulmonary/critical-care fellowship in this very hospital–I had just completed a palliative-care fellowship. Now I was the hospital’s palliative-care consult attending.

When I set eyes on the patient in room 1407, my first thought was: THIS LADY NEEDS TO BE INTUBATED–STAT!

The only trouble was that my job was to ease this patient’s passing, not to prolong her life.

The team had told me that Mrs. Zelnick, an eighty-two-year-old widow, was dying from pneumonia and didn’t want to be put on life support.

What a breath of fresh air, I’d thought. Too often, as an ICU physician, I’d been tasked with keeping dying patients alive–here, I was being asked to honor an elderly woman’s request to die in peace.

But it wasn’t going to be that simple. (…) Read Full Article Here

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