Our team of mesothelioma and lung cancer lawyers knows how hard it can be to cope with and discuss a cancer diagnosis, particularly when it concerns such a devastating form. Patients with life-threatening illnesses need to speak openly with their doctors and loved ones about their priorities, treatment goals, fears and ultimate wishes. A new book, Being Mortal, aims to help patients and their families address these issues.
Mesothelioma is an extraordinarily fatal cancer; most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is in advanced stages, aggressively spreading to other organs. Fortunately, as cancer treatments advance and new discoveries are made, mesothelioma patients (and cancer patients of all types) are experiencing better prognoses. Still, the average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma remains about one year.
Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and prolific writer, tackles terminal cancer care in Being Mortal. As much as the book highlights case studies, financial costs, and palliative care, it is also call for reform in the philosophy of health care. Rather than encouraging doctors to overestimate survival rates and aggressive cancer treatments, Gawande leans toward enabling well-being and ensuring patients make the most of their remaining time.
When A Cure is Impossible
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An ideal doctor-patient relationship would be collaborative: where patients understand the full extent of their disease, the risks, benefits and costs of all treatment options, and how they wish to proceed based on their values and wishes. Patients must know what problems they will encounter as their cancer spreads and what methods are best to east pain. When a cure is impossible, focus should be on the comfort of the patient and their family and the quality – rather than quantity the patient’s life.
One of the only benefits of a mesothelioma diagnosis is having, even in the most minor way, the ability to control the end of your life. There is no cure for late stage mesothelioma or lung cancer. Chemotherapy merely aims to prolong survival for a few months.
The soaring costs of healthcare in the United States add another facet to the problem. For cancer treatments especially spending is astronomical: 25% of all Medicare spending goes to the 5% of patients in their final year of life and most goes to care in the last two months, which provides little benefit.
The Coping with Cancer project recently published a study showing that patients with terminal cancer who were placed on ventilators, electrical defibrillation / chest compression, or admitted to intensive care suffered substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who did not receive these treatments. Likewise, their caregivers were three times more likely to suffer major depression that those who did not witness such treatments.
Hospice and Palliative Care
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Hospice and palliative care should be at the forefront of conversation for anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness. Hospice does not mean medical teams have given up, on treating the patient, it merely means priorities have been rearranged. In standard medical care the priority is to extend life by any means necessary. Hospice, on the other hand, focuses on freedom from pain and discomfort, getting out with family, and maintaining mental awareness.
There is a misconception that hospice care hastens death, however, many studies prove otherwise. One report analyzed nearly 5,000 Medicare patients with terminal cancer or congestive heart failure, finding no difference in survival time between hospice and non-hospice patients. In fact, hospice care extended survival for some patients, including those with lung cancer, by about six weeks.
Our mesothelioma lawyers have been working on behalf of cancer patients and their families for 30 years. We know how valuable your time is, and we want to help you make the most of it while ensuring your family will not be overrun by medical bills in the meantime. Our legal time has won millions in compensation for mesothelioma patients by filing claims against the companies responsible for your asbestos exposure. We have even helped former smokers suffering from lung cancer. Contact our firm today for a free case review; we accept clients nationwide.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm also offers a free book, 100 Questions & Answers on Mesothelioma to anyone struggling with a diagnosis. We ship the book free of charge nationwide. Merely put in your name and address in the contact box on our main site, here, to receive your free book.