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It's about time doctors relearned the ancient art of dying

November 24, 2017

 

 

 

 In her blog, Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter explains why the medical fraternity needs a Code Death to rightly deal with dying patients in critical care units.

 

Excerpts: 

 

“I was trained to use highly sophisticated tools to rescue those even beyond the brink of death. But I was never trained how to unhook these tools. I never learned how to help my patients die.“I committed the protocols of lifesaving to memory and get recertified every two years to handle a Code Blue, which alerts us to the need for immediate resuscitation. Yet a Code Blue is rarely successful. Very few patients ever leave the hospital afterward. Those that do rarely wake up again. It has become clear to me in my years on this job that we need a Code Death.

 

“We physicians need to relearn the ancient art of dying. When planned for, death can be a peaceful, even transcendent experience,” she writes.

 

“As an I.C.U. doctor, I am trained to save lives. Yet the reality is that some of my patients are beyond saving. And while I can use the tricks of my trade to keep their bodies going, many will never return to a quality of life that they, or anyone else, would be willing to accept.

 

“Until the early 20th century, death was as natural a part of life as birth. It was expected, accepted and filled with ritual. But in this age of technological wizardry, doctors have been taught that they must do everything possible to stave off death. We refuse to wait passively for a last breath, and instead pump air into dying bodies in our own ritual of life-prolongation.

 

"A well-run Code Death is no less important than a Code Blue. It should become a protocol, aggressive and efficient. We need to teach it, practice it, and certify doctors every two years for it. Because helping patients die takes as much technique and expertise as saving lives."

 

 

(Jessica Nutik Zitter is an attending physician at Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, Calif. She is board-certified in both critical-care and palliative-care medicine.)

 

Read original report here: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/a-better-way-to-help-dying-patients/?_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=tw-share&_r=1&mtrref

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