In this program we explore the issues around medical science that are forcing us to define life, death, quality of life and patient rights. We confront the moral and ethical questions that arise when facing critical healthcare decisions. Part 4/4
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Male: It would appear that our great struggle is determining how long we should keep on going with medical treatment, hoping that at some point, a miracle will happen. Mark P. Aulisio: A miracle can happen and people can believe that a miracle will happen but there still are limits to what medicine can actually do and we need to be aware of our human limits and really, if you’re a theist, if you believe in a god or certainly if you believe in all-loving, all-powerful, just god who ultimately intends to make things right for humans, you have to be willing to accept your human limitations. Male: For some, having faith in the ultimate will of God helps them to transition from a desperate clinging to life at all cost to an acceptance of the inevitability that death comes for all. Mark P. Aulisio: You know, okay, God can do what God will do but as humans, this is all we can offer from medicine. We can't make this child better anymore. We can’t make this adult better anymore. The best we can do is whatever it is; you got to fill in the details for the case and in some cases, the best we can do is just keeping somebody comfortable, just recognizing now that another surgery is not appropriate, another round of chemo is not appropriate. Male: According to Dr. Aulisio, some families ask doctors to do things that are medically harmful in order to keep the patient alive at all cost because they are expecting a miracle. He points out that most of the time, doctors will not offer continued treatment if they think there is absolutely no hope and especially if it will only increase the discomfort of the patient. Mark P. Aulisio: Life had quite a few cases that I’ve consulted on where people are saying, “We want him to be alive as long as possible because God’s going to work a miracle, so you do everything; you do everything.” Well, even in the “doing of everything,” you can reach a point where you’ve done everything and the miracle did or didn’t come usually if you’ve reached the point where you’ve done everything, the miracle didn’t come. So, I think at that point, people ought to be allowed to believe what they want but they have to understand also that within the scope of medical practice, physicians may not engage in bad medical practice in doing things that are harmful to patients because their loved ones, the patient’s loved ones are still waiting on a miracle. Host: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” These words from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” are both comforting and chilling. For some, there is no question that death brings a sense of calm and peace, for others, it is the great mystery. Many have said that their fear is not so much about death but the process we go through in order to arrive on the other side of the veil between two seemingly distinct worlds. Modern medicine has in many ways extended our transition from life to death leaving each of us to decide what measure are ethical, moral and makes sense to us.

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