David Moller, PhD, spoke at Harris Methodist Hospital today on "Suffering, Healing and Sociocultural Factors Near the End of Life."
David Moller, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Department of Bioethics delivered a talk today at Harris Methodist. The gist of his talk was that health providers should treat the "person" at end of life, and not just the "disease/disability." Patients want to be "seen" as the whole person they've always been, not just someone with stomach cancer. And we humans need to be taught a different way to think about death so we don't dread it so much.
He talked about how Americans, in particular, are in denial that they are going to die someday. This is not healthy. We need to learn that dying is a natural part of the human experience. Dying is not easy, but we don't need to make it harder than it is for patients by not "listening" to them, or honoring the person they have been all of their lives (and not just see them as a "case to be treated").
Dr. Moller described some cases where cultural differences need to be recognized and health providers should not simply follow the same-o same-o protocol when talking about death. Each individual is different. He described a case study about a Navaho man and how the doctor botched the end-of-life discussion which resulted in the patient refusing treatment which would have eased his suffering.
He asked the audience (made up mostly of doctors and nurses) what makes a "good death." Answers from the audience: pain controlled, [Elva: "choice of location to die--usually home and not a hospital"], life review, reconciliation, social support system, music.
He asked what makes a "bad death." Answers from the audience: hooked up to machines when the physician knows that healing is not going to happen, pain not controlled, [Elva: "not having aid-in-dying, death with dignity, as an option"]. This started a conversation in the room and Dr. Moller asked me if I had seen the film "How to Die in Oregon." I replied, "If that's the film about Bryttany Maynard who had an inoperable brain tumor who had to move away from her support network in California to Oregon in order to have a death with dignity, yes, I saw that movie." He confirmed that was the one he was talking about. You can watch the full documentary at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUNFiMSqZY4
Physicians and nurses and social workers received continuing education credits for attending this talk.