End-of-Life Issues


Under review

Be they cessation of treatment or an order not to resuscitate, end-of-life issues are all too often a taboo subject in the physician-patient relationship. Indeed, death is still a culturally taboo subject in our society. And for the physician it is doubly so. On the one hand, society tends to avoid the subject of death to the point of altering the language and rites attached to it. On the other hand, it increasingly entrusts the care of the dying to hospital institutions, when they themselves are caught up in the dynamics of an all-out fight for life and an “efficiency” rationale. Should physicians not re-learn how to provide support and solace in the same measure as they seek to heal?

Without wanting to single-handedly change the culture of the society in which they live, physicians can, through their professional  commitment, play a decisive role in the approach to the care of the dying. Just as they do at other times in the lives of their patients, they must provide supportive care and information to the patient and his family at the end of life and, in so doing, help patient and family go through the final stage of life with dignity. As a group,  physicians must also participate in the increasingly frequent public discussions on these questions.