Physicians, especially but not exclusively oncologists who treat cancer, have a technological imperative, an obsession to apply their skills and their techniques to try curing disease. Often this imperative gets beyond reality and they treat people who ought to be left alone and kept peaceful and comfortable in their last days.
There is a place and a time in each human life where caring must take the place of curing and the time, effort and, yes, money ought to be spent on comfort, not organ-sustaining pills. When I reach those last stages, I want my health care proxy to bring friends and family to my side, not doctors and surgeons. I want my proxy to run through my list of pills and challenge the doctor on each of them. When the pill is designed for my comfort, go for it; when it is a mindless attempt to keep my organs alive when it is time for me to leave, stop it. I don’t want heart pills; I want heart.
My final plea to my doctors, who are welcome as friends at my bedside:
“Doctor, don’t just do something, stand there.”
George D. LeMaitre, M.D., an Andover resident, is a vascular surgeon and founder of LeMaitre Vascular Inc., an international medical device company.