Journal Entry – Radiolab Podcast

This week our task was to listen to a Radiolab podcast as an introduction to the Emergence movement.  We are not supposed to listen to the podcast seeking out a theological revelation, and even were told to listen to the same podcast multiple times in a casual manner.

Because I work in a church, and death is a topic that frequents the building, I chose to listen to a podcast titled ‘The Bitter End’.  Immediately what jumped out at me was the fact that most doctors would not choose the same lifesaving measures that we so frequently place upon our loved ones and ourselves.  Joseph Gallo, professor at Johns Hopkins, discussed a survey on 1337 medical school graduates.  These subjects were asked about depression, anxiety, social support, etc.  Eventually, the subjects were asked about death.

The subjects were asked if they wanted various lifesaving measures taken, in the event that they were incapacitated to one level or another… remember, these are season doctors who are now in the 70s!  90% of the doctors do not want CPR, ventilation, dialysis.  80% do not want invasive surgery, blood products, antibiotics.   BUT 80% want pain medication to dull pain, even if it prematurely ends their life.

The conversation was very interesting.  The same treatments and procedures that we demand for ourselves and loved ones, are  not the same treatments and procedures most doctors would want when they are in the same situation.  Why is this?  Why do we demand these treatments even though the people administering them and signing off on the paperwork would not want it for themselves?

I am going to think about this more today and follow-up with a response this evening.  I would appreciate any thoughts or comments you would like to share.

You can listen to the Radiolab podcast here.

“Preferences of physician-participants for treatment given a scenario of irreversible brain injury without terminal illness. Percentage of physicians shown on the vertical axis. For cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), surgery, and invasive diagnostic testing, no choice for a trial of treatment was given. Data from the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, 1998. Courtesy of Joseph Gallo, “Life-Sustaining Treatments: What Do Physicians Want and Do They Express Their Wishes to Others?””