Physicians and surgeons working in America's hospitals have access to cutting-edge procedures that can prolong the lives of patients living with chronic diseases. But they don't necessarily want them for themselves.
According to a Johns Hopkins University study of older physicians, 90 percent would not want CPR if they were in a coma. Only 25 percent of the public gives the same answer [source: Cohen]. Doctors know that the odds of recovering from "successful" CPR are extremely low, but the odds of broken ribs and increased pain are very high [source: Murray].
In private, many doctors are intensely troubled by the "anything and everything" approach to saving lives [source: Murray]. What's the point of extending a life for a few short months if it means living in an intensive care unit connected to dozens of tubes and numbed to unconsciousness by pain medication?
And then there's the cost. A full quarter of all Medicare spending pays for hospitals stays and procedures for 5 percent of people in their last year of life. And then there's everything that Medicare doesn't cover. An American couple can expect to spend more than $50,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs in the last five years of life [source: Wang]. Some procedures greatly improve and extend quality of life, but not all.
The best advice is to put end-of-life directives in writing, whether we want every possible medical procedure to prolong life, or to die peacefully without being recesisiated or put on life support.
Author's Note: 10 Overrated Life Decisions
Having made eight out of the ten major life decisions on this list, I feel like I can speak with some confidence about the relative value of each. First, I should say that I don't regret a single major life decision so far. I went to college, got married relatively young, have three amazing kids and a mortgage. All of them have worked out wonderfully. And the ones that didn't work out as wonderfully — climbing the corporate ladder, relocating for a new job — I chalk up to valuable learning experiences. As my editor explained, the point of this article is not to slam anyone's decision to get married or retire, but to point out the pros and cons of each, and encourage readers to think hard about some of life's most potentially "life-changing" choices. In The Game of LIFE, you can always clear the board and start over. In real life, you have to live with your decisions, good or bad.
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