As a Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse Specialist I work with many patients in their last days of life on earth. I have seen patients' last days be filled with joy as they choose to focus on loved ones. I have also seen the dysfunction and misery of patients and families who are unwilling to accept the inevitable.
Just because we (health professionals) CAN do something, doesn't mean we should. Most patients who are approaching the end are not given the big picture. Why is it that the same doctors who are performing last ditch efforts on patients would never actually want them done on themselves?
The truth is, the BEST case scenario for these patients (any health professional who has been practicing for at least a few years can point out a patient who is at the end) is that they make it through these painful, grueling, delirium enducing procedures, only to be a much weaker, more opioid dependent, confused, and miserable form of themselves. That is the BEST case scenario...and it happens only a small fraction of the time. Most cases follow their logical conclusion with that patient having multiple complications and coming to a painful end in a cold harsh hospital (sorry for the grim picture).
We can do better than this. I believe it starts with better communication between health professionals and patients. We all need to do a much more thorough job, WITH THE PATIENT AND FAMILY, of laying out a detailed, realistic picture of what it means to enable patients to end their last days, months, sometimes years, in a way that is sacred to them and their families.