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.