Dying Is a Hard Thing to Do: Cancer and American Medicine
A personal account of a loved one’s death due to cancer and her struggle with the American medical system. We rely on our professional medical caregivers to provide truthful information and advice to help match personal choices with medical alternatives and realities, especially when we must make difficult end of life decisions.
- What happens when our doctors avoid such difficult discussions?
- When they refuse to describe the progression of the disease and the likelihood the proposed treatment will be successful?
- When they make deliberate efforts to deny their patients direct communications with their doctor?
- When they withhold information or deliberately provide incomplete or misleading information?
- Worse, when the doctor’s avoidance of patient interaction, combined with an aggressive curative approach leads not to recovery but to shock, when the patient is finally told she has “just a few weeks” to live.
As the night wore on I grew increasingly concerned that no one was in charge. Sitting in the dark, hearing Patty breathe, thinking about the problems we were having, I felt worried and frustrated by my inability to do anything about them. It seemed that there were too many doctors involved, almost always someone different, all of them potentially writing orders for drugs and tests. There seemed to be many things on which they did not agree.
About the Author
Commander Sean Ferguson has made a significant contribution to the national defense in design, development, and operational employment of military systems. He is a system engineer and senior technical manager for a major defense contractor. He supports design and development efforts for major ship and weapon system programs, and for command, control, communications and intelligence systems. He manages a group of operations research analysts and mathematicians providing analytic support of engineering design efforts. Commander Ferguson is a Technical Fellow, competitively selected to provide technical leadership across the corporation, identifying and evaluating new technologies; aiding in technology transfer; contributing to thought leadership in broader technical and customer communities through papers, presentations, and publications. His industry experience was preceded by service in U.S. Navy cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and forward deployed afloat staffs, including combat operations in Vietnam. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, of George Washington University, and is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval War College.