End of Life Choices

Samuel Harrington, MD, an honors graduate of Harvard College and the University of Wisconsin Medical School, concentrated his clinical practice at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC. There he served as a medical staff leader, a trustee, and as Sibley's representative to the Johns Hopkins Quality and Safety Board Committee. This work and his service on the board of trustees of a nonprofit hospice brought Dr. Harrington into the discussion of end-of-life medical care.

Most people say they would like to die quietly at home. But overly aggressive medical advice, coupled with an unrealistic sense of invincibility or overconfidence in our health-care system, results in the majority of elderly patients misguidedly dying in institutions. Many undergo painful procedures instead of having the better and more peaceful death they deserve.

Dr. Harrington's new book "At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life" outlines specific active and passive steps that older patients and their health-care proxies can take to ensure loved ones live their last days comfortably at home and/or in hospice when further aggressive care is inappropriate.

Dr. Atul Gawande helped transform the conversation about aging and death in his book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

He is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

WAMC/Pat Bradley

A group opposed to Vermont’s new End-of-Life-Choices law has begun running ads on local television stations urging its repeal.

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Supporters, and a few opponents, crowded into the Governor’s Ceremonial office on the second floor of the Vermont statehouse Monday afternoon to witness the signing of the landmark End-of-Life Choices bill into law.

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Vermont’s Governor signed a bill Monday that will allow Vermont physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients that request it.

Rama/Public Domain/Wikimedia

Vermont lawmakers are once again considering a measure that would allow an individual to request prescription medication to end their life if diagnosed with a terminal condition.