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Board Certified Ophthalmologist Writes About Compassion for Patients in End of Life Care

In case you missed it, University of Michigan ophthalmologist and American Board of Ophthalmology diplomate Julie Rosenthal, M.D., authored a piece for National Public Radio (NPR) this month chronicling her recent decision to honor the wishes of a hospice patient with terminal cancer to perform cataract surgery. Her decision to proceed with the operation, despite the patient’s overall prognosis, sparked debate amongst her colleagues:

“Our anesthesiologist and others on the operating room team were opposed to performing a surgery on a patient on hospice with only weeks to live. The anesthesiologist was trained in Britain and noted that Thomas' cataracts would never be removed there, where committees decide on the utility of certain treatments and procedures. For someone who would only get a few weeks of "use" out of his surgery, the costs couldn't be justified. Thomas' oncologist was concerned about his health and had a serious discussion with him. However, Thomas understood the risks and decided it was worth it to undergo the surgery.”

After a successful procedure, Rosenthal was gratified to know that her patient attended a family reunion where he could see—clearly—the faces of his children and grandchildren one final time. He passed away several weeks later.

Rosenthal believes doctors shouldn’t focus solely on prolonging life. “What about treatments that improve life, that make people's last days better and allow them to finish their days in a meaningful way?” she asks.

Read the full story on the NPR website.

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