In medicine we often have health and sickness and also life and death situations or need for making such decision. This is not surprise at all. But sometimes for a physicians to bring up the topic of DEATH is not well received and some time patients or the members of the family are not happy that I bring it up.
I had seen this patient for last couple of years and she was 75 years old female who had chronic cough and so she had work up done and she was told to have got Fibrosis or so called IDIOPATHIC PULMONARY FIBROSIS. The disease is uniformly fatal. But in my experience that happens in 20-30 % of the patients and some get worse rapidly and others slowly and some never get bad enough. This is not what the medical literature will state. Again this is based on diagnosis by CT scan . Anyway she had fibrosis and also it was or it had gotten worse. She was short of breath and had chronic cough and I did the work up and she needed oxygen and she would drop her oxygen level even walking few feet and she needed oxygen 24 hrs a day . She had CT scan - High Resolution CT scan and she had the typical findings of fibrosis and so we did routine work up and then started her on a relatively new medicine called OFEV . This I think was approved by FDA in 2014 or 2015 . She was doing OK and she continued to have problems Due to progressive nature of the disease, I discussed with her and the family on lung transplant and she wanted to go to a university center as some of her family was there. The appointment was postponed as the center was in another state. She continued to have very limited activity and was some what stable. She had some cough and she seems to be stable with Ofev . She had appointment with the transplant center after 6 months and she decided that she did not want to have transplant as she felt 'she was too old '.She then had respiratory infection and she was more short of breath and so she was admitted . She had new CT scan and that again showed fibrosis, but also showed a new density at the edge of the lung . I was not too sure as what that was as it did not look like typical cancer. I asked her to get me old CT scan cd. I looked at it and in old CT scan that area did not show the density. So when she came to my office , she came with her son. I explained them the new findings and told them that I am concerned about developing cancer . I also told them that if it is cancer she was not a candidate for invasive work up given her poor lung condition . The bronchoscopy would not get to the area as it was at edge of the lung . The needle biopsy - by putting in the needle from chest wall in to the lung was possible but there was very high risk of collapse of the lung as puncturing lung was a possibility . Certainly 'cutting it out ' by surgeon was out of question. So I ordered a PET scan and told them on what could be done as treatment if at alll we can do some without biopsy .
At the end of lengthy discussion I also told them that she needs to have living will and decision as to what she would like if she could not breath or her heart stops --the so called DNR status. OI told her that if she would go on ventilator, with her given lung capacity, it will be impossible to wean her off the ventilator. So then the family will have to make decision on so called "pulling the plug". So it will be better if she has discussion with them and make decision in advance. I also suggested that she should consider not going on respirator or make herself DNR by signing forms. She seemed to be receptive . But the son told her that he does not think she should be DNR and we should do everything possible . I told her that that is why she should have discussion with family members. So that will avoid the conflict when the time comes.
DO YOU THINK WE ARE EVER READY ?