What Doctors don’t Learn about Death and Dying

“Why are doctors not trained to cope with mortality”? That is a question I have asked myself often over the past few years, not only with regard to doctors but any health care professional.

This TED book excerpt is an excellent read What doctors don’t learn about death and dying and made me think about the implications of this neglect of mortality in the education system.

“Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives and how it affects those around them?”

Disregard for our own human mortality is certainly a societal problem in general in my opinion, but it seems to be a particular problem in professions such as health care where the likelihood of encountering death is something that comes with the territory. If the limits of modern medicine would be acknowledged more openly, maybe we could focus our attention more on areas where a difference can be made: palliative care, pain management, bereavement support. And patients could be better prepared to deal with devastating news, supported by compassionate and empathetic care providers.

I sometimes feel that we have come to a stage where everyone expects to be healed, no matter how serious the problem might be. When I learned about my dad’s brain tumor my first thought was when will he be in for treatment? I did not consider that the tumor might not be curable. Why is that the case? Maybe because of a constant onslaught of news about medical breakthroughs that suggest that anything is possible. I seem to recall a headline that stuck with me: newspapers reported that we could do a head transplant. Seriously! I just googled it again and the news was from July 2013 in the Surgical Neurology International.

If we can transplant heads (in theory at least), cure cancer, repair spines etc. how could we not have solved all problems during child birth? And how could the support for parents be so limited if something goes wrong? It is time to change this.

Help break the silence!