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Ideas and Opinions |

Caring for Patients at the End of Life: Reflections after 12 Years of Practice

Richard A. Parker, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

Acknowledgments: The author thanks Erin Hartman, MS, for her intrepid editorial assistance, Richard Balaban, MD, for his review of the manuscript, and Tom Delbanco, MD, for his guidance, review, and support.

Requests for Single Reprints: Richard A. Parker, MD, Healthcare Associates, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, One Autumn Street, Boston, MA 02215; e-mail, raparker@caregroup.harvard.edu.

Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(1):72-75. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-136-1-200201010-00012
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Physicians have the privilege and authority to assist patients and their families at the end of life. Regardless of diagnosis, commonalities occur in the dying process, and palliative care benefits patients and families. This perspective chronicles my experience over 12 years caring for 95 patients at the end of life, illustrated in part with six vignettes. I describe interactions with families, discuss logistic issues around dying, examine the do-not-resuscitate issue, and highlight experiences with home visits. I also touch on how I communicate with the family after a death. I hope to express the significance of what I have learned while assisting patients and families at this critical juncture.





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