Theological discussions on appropriate courses of care for the very ill can be more difficult if information on options and outcomes is lacking. This article provides an historical review of a change in the paradigm of care in the United States and similar developed countries. End-of-life courses can vary based on underlying disease processes and health system resources. The purpose of this article is to help readers to better appreciate the limitations of medicine, and so be able to make a more informed decision about interventions that may be offered at the end of life. While there is also some discussion about ethics and physician-assisted suicide, this is not intended to be a theological treatise on Catholic doctrine related to the sanctity of life. Additionally, the following paragraphs will describe the current state of living and dying in America, contrast this with the way people wish to live until they die, discuss the role of the caregiver, provide insight into physician-assisted suicide and misconceptions about medicine, provide insight into the physician's role in end-of-life care, and explain what medicine can reasonably be expected to provide or prognosticate. Finally, there is an attempt to allay misconceptions about the extent of the effect of medical interventions. Medical intervention is inextricably linked to human fallibility and shortcomings in clinical knowledge and achievement. Recognizing when human intervention can no longer provide cure, prevent decline, or even slow the course of disease is crucial in making end-of-life care decisions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy