Failure

Wow, despite the recent exponential explosion in the amount of information and data about palliative care coming out, there are still some corners of the earth the news hasn’t reached. Those corners exist in my hospital! The other day I was on the floor finishing up a Palliative Care consult and an older cardiologist, who has worked with me in the past, in regards to one of his patients at End-of-Life-Care, sat at the table across from me. I was standing up to leave and he said something to me that caused me to become speechless for several moments. He looked at me and stated, “when I see you, I think that someone (a physician) has failed.” Of course I was awe struck and I don’t entirely remember exactly what I said. I said something to the effect of “that’s what’s wrong with us (as physicians) that we see death as a failure instead of part of the ‘life’ process.” Of course, you always think of better things to say after the fact and what I now wish I said was, “then you and I fail 100% of the time because ALL of our patients die at some point in their lives.” This is what the majority of us in the field have to deal with. Those that believe that Palliative Care is only End-of-Life-Care and only to be called in when a physician has failed. No wonder the physicians see us as the “death squad.” We are the firing squad to be called in when someone has been sentenced by their disease and called in to put an end to their misery. It has been a huge challenge to educate physicians to think of Palliative Care as an appropriate and helpful service that can be of benefit at the time of diagnosis, and extending through the active stages of treatment, rather than only at the End-of-Life. For those of us in the field, there is much work to be done! Carry on and Godspeed!

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