A recent NYTimes op-ed piece by Dr. Eric D. Manheimer touches on the difficulty of knowing when to abide by a patient's desire to stop treatment. In When Doctors Become Patients,
His wife insisted, “'You’re going to finish the treatment,' .... I did not have the energy, or perhaps the will, to disagree. She wheeled me down herself to finish my radiation treatments...."
My dreams of dying were not the products of anxious moments of terror. The life force had simply slipped away and made me ready to die. It had also rendered me incapable of making the right decision for myself. My disease was treatable and the odds were favorable. My doctors were professional and gentle but ultimately could not decide for me. When neither doctor nor patient can make the right decision, it is vital to have a caring family — though even here the legal and ethical issues are complicated.
No amount of doctoring can prepare you for being a patient.
If anything, it’s that recognition of vulnerability as well as expertise that makes me a better doctor today.