How Doctors Tell Patients They’re Dying | Being Mortal | FRONTLINE

How Doctors Tell Patients They’re Dying | Being Mortal | FRONTLINE


(siren wailing) NARRATOR: When serious illnesses
take us to hospitals, we look to doctors for answers. But what happens
when there are no more cures? – Do you want
to call her daughter? NARRATOR: Zara Cooper
is an emergency surgeon with palliative care training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
in Boston. She frequently must deal
with patients surprised that they’re nearing
the end of life. – It’s certain that
everybody’s gonna die. There’s no certainty as to when. It’s not clear from the CT scan
what’s going on… And frequently,
as an emergency surgeon, I’m meeting somebody
for the first time, and they have no idea that they
could die from their disease. Whether that’s because nobody’s
told them or they’re in denial, I don’t know,
but it’s always a surprise. NARRATOR: Clyde Earle
has been undergoing treatment for advanced cancer for a year. He’s now suffering
with intense pain. The prognosis is not good. – Well, you’re in good hands
here with Dr. Cooper. – I know. NARRATOR: Dr. Cooper
wants to talk to Mr. Earle and his wife Audrey
about what comes next. – So the rumor has it you guys
are newlyweds, is that right? – Yeah, in March. – That’s great. Now, what happened before you
came in to the hospital? – One morning, I had so much
pain, I could not take it. I was in deep trouble
with pain. – About 3:30 in the morning. – What I discovered was that
he and his wife had the expectation that
he had many more months. – So let me ask you, what do we expect to happen
after you leave the hospital? – We’re going fishing. – Okay. – We’re going up
to the house in Maine. And then after Maine, we’ll go back
to the house in Florida. – Right. – Now, has anybody
talked to you about hospice or having hospice nurses
take care of you? Is that part of the plan? – When and if we need it,
I know the procedure. – Yeah. When I said “hospice,” it was
as if I was talking to somebody who only thought that hospice
would be necessary when he was just about to die. My impression was that
that was the goal, was to get him to hospice. I think the lesson learned
is that you have to ask. You can’t make those assumptions
because oftentimes, patients and their families aren’t at all
where you think they are and aren’t at all
where you think they should be. NARRATOR: But Zara Cooper had
at least started a conversation about the end of life. – We are here to take care
of you, okay? – Okay. – All right. NARRATOR: As Clyde Earle’s
condition worsens, Dr. Cooper brought in
Kathy Selvaggi, a senior palliative care
physician whose expertise is
in end-of-life care. She would now take up
the hospice discussion. – She and I had a conversation
about goals of care, and… – When Dr. Selvaggi came down
to the ICU to meet them, I said, you know, “You’ve got
a lot of work to do.” She said, “I know.” – It was really important
to take his wife aside and talk about
what I was seeing. – Hi. – How are you, Audrey? – Let’s not even ask questions
like that. – I know, I know. Clyde, good morning. – (moaning) – It’s been… like this. (whispering) I don’t like it. – I know you don’t. – I don’t like it at all. – It is a process, and I think, you know,
it is very hard to come to the realization
that you’re dying. These are really important
conversations that should not be waiting
the last week of someone’s life. I’m not sure I’m gonna
get him back to Maine. – We’re not. Let’s face the truth. – I don’t think we are. – No. – I think he’s gonna be here
with us. – Yeah, I know he is. I guess I was in my own world,
thinking if they could fix. In my heart, though,
I knew better. I knew what was ahead. And I didn’t share it with him. – It’s those moments
when people show that they want
to talk about it. Once somebody gives you
that kind of opening, in palliative care, we’re
trained to take that opening and to identify that as a moment
where you can help somebody, whereas I think the natural
inclination is to say, “We’re gonna get him better
and you’re gonna get him home,” because it makes you
feel better. – I love you. – I love you. – I love you, honey.


100 thoughts on “How Doctors Tell Patients They’re Dying | Being Mortal | FRONTLINE

  1. My mother died in hospice care at home with her 9 children 2wks ago.
    She has Alzheimer's, stage 4 Kidney disease, and blindness due to diabetes.
    There is nothing like watching your mother die slowly all the while she did recognize any of her children, she was just like a two year old.
    When she died 2wks ago Saturday morning at 6am I died too.
    It especially hurt me because I was struggling with the fact I just got out of rehab months before.
    I suffer traumatic brain injury, doctor found a huge tumor near the frontal lobe near memory part of the brain.
    The 48 staples across my hair from ear to ear makes me cry everyday the dents in my head is a constant reminder of my injury.
    I'm having some memory lost at times, but the sight of watching the funeral home attendant put my mother in that body bad and taking her away will forever be in my mind and heart.
    I see a psychiatrist and see team of suicide prevention team at least 2 twice a month.
    I'm having guilty thoughts as to why I'm alive and she is dead.
    We all just lost our father months before, that too was horrific he died of cronic COPD and heart failure.
    To all those who has lost a love one be strong surround your self with family and friends it helps.🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

  2. When you truly love ❤️ someone no matter what the circumstances are it’s hard to let go,you hug and love them as much as you can forever until GOD calls you home

  3. Depends on the patient and the situation, but the best way is almost always to be blunt, direct, and to use simple words. Most appreciate that.

  4. We need better pain drugs or allow euthanasia cuz when I get old I don't wanna be in constant pain until my very last breath 😖

  5. educated idiots. i know doctors dont tell family that their loved one is going to die coz 1 is dying coz of a disease and others die with the news doctors break in their ears that you patient is not going to make it. give hope till last moment. dont upload such videos plz.

  6. Studied psychology for 4 years, I am ready to graduate in February 2020, I read "about death & dying by Elizabeth kubber, she done her own research in a hospital with patients who are dying. She said; it's a shock of course, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & finaly acceptance are the 5 different stages a person will go through when facing death in the face. 🙏😑🙏

  7. This reminded me of when the doctors came out and tell me and my family that my grandfather had too much brain damage to survive without being on machines the whole time, then we took him off life support the day after, he always lived fishing like Clyde probably did and we live in Maine.

  8. This is sad to learn you never really think about how you die… when you do everything turns dark in your life and you wish it’s not real. It just hits you in the fac

  9. Idk, I would not want to live through the pain and prolong my life with no quality left. Just stick a fork in me. I’m out ✌🏽 it’s cruel for the family to watch you die a slow and painful death :(. Life is so beautiful yet so unfair.

  10. I had a severe medical condition and no one told me. My wife knew because they told her. I survived and didn't find out about my serious condition until a stranger told me. I spoke to him about my experience.

  11. Last year, my uncle in my native country of Sweden had been complaining to my aunt because he was always tired and sleeping a lot. One day, he was out changing tires on his car. The next day, he woke up with an excruciating headache. It was so bad that my aunt took him to the hospital. There, doctors performed CT scans and MRIs. It turns out he had malignant tumors from an aggressive melanoma in his brain and in his spine. There was nothing they could do for him. He went home a few days later and, a couple of months later, passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 79. He died peacefully at home. The last thing he wanted was to wind up in a nursing home and that did not happen. The only wish he did not get was seeing his 80th birthday. Oh well. He died a happy man. My parents went to the funeral but, due to work, I could not get away. However, I flew to Sweden for a two week vacation last summer with my parents. We stayed with my aunt for about 5 days. She took us to my uncle's grave and that was a catharsis for me. I cried and cried. It was a form of closure for me. I felt like my uncle was telling me not to be sad and that he was in a good place. That's my story.

  12. I know how she feels, and I feel so terrible she had to go through that. My grandpa passed away in July..in the hospital. And I remeber that one night when my dad came home from the hospital, it was about 3 am and he had told us that things weren't looking good. That was the first time I saw my dad cry..and a few days later my grandpa passed. At least I got to tell him I loved him 😔❤

  13. Atleast he had her side in his final moments don't know who will be beside her when she will be counting hers last minutes coz the one who cares is already gone! Hope she leaves with no pain what so ever!

  14. Geez Mr Earle was old. We are the most death denying country on earth. I’m 72 and I will not struggle to live. His wife isn’t far behind him. Death is inevitable and we really need to work through a process of acceptance of the ending of life on this earth.

  15. He's had a long life he's gotten a lot more time than many people have gotten about 50% of my friends died before they were 40 years old in their eyes this man has lived two lifetimes but that doesn't matter if you're 18 or 80 when you're dying it's never going to feel like you have enough time kind of like the end of your weekend it's now Monday morning and you're headed back to work but it was just Friday a minute ago where did The Weeknd even go I have a feeling when you're on your Deathbed life is going to feel a lot like that you're going to ask yourself where did it go

  16. "My dear doctor, is it true he is dying? Then there is nothing more for you to do,” . “We will take up the burden. We will comfort him. We will close his eyes. We will bury him and weep at his funeral and afterwards we will watch over his wife and daughters.”…Don Corleone

  17. Its so strange bc i wonder what happens at the moment of death Imagine yourself in that moment Do you just see a sudden flash and now its just peace or do you see your family come to get you and help you toward heaven?

  18. Off the camera. She's like another one bites the dust. And another one gone and another one gone. Another one bites the dust. Ight guys let's hit the pub.

  19. It makes me angry that he probably had a long drawn out, and excruciating death, you don’t even lets dogs go through that. End of life euthanasia needs to become legal

  20. I dont want to seem unsensitive but the man laying like that in the bed dying is the standard of white soceity! Its sad but the first wold has done this to themselves! The image of the man laying there is what happens to all people who live in a soceity where alcohol drinking and meat eating and sigarettes and stress is promoted!!!! Even healthy people can and will die i know this but its statistically very low! the man laying there is prob due to a life time of bad first wold habbits like alcohol drinking, smoking and stress and meat eating! People should wake the fuck up and stop drinking alcohol a life time! Alcohol is litteraly the number one killer! It kills you slowly over a life time and causes micro inflamation in all your organs and body and accelrates aging and opens pathways for oidative damage and dna damage! All cuase of life time alcohol! doesnt matter if its just one glass once in a while! Every glass of alcohol you drink is bringing you closer to an unnatural death! But people will fight me on this one cuz when it comes to alcohol people will litteraly walk over dead bodies and go through hell and back just to defend their drinking! Alcohol and meat eating is litteraly the holy bible of the people of today! I use to work as paramedic and i saw a lot of death and sick people and at the core the cause was always a life time of bad habbits like alcohol drinking even if it was with moderationg, sigarettes msoking, sun bathing (causes dna damage aswell not only skin cancer) and meat eating which also reduces life span since meat eating damages our bodies! Yet people love meat and alcohol so they will come up with the best lie, stories and fake studies to support their beloved holy alcohol and meat eating! Both are wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!! As a vegetarian (since i was 7 now 31) i can honestly say that taking and eating life comes at a cost! You cannot just take destroy and eat living sentient beings and expect to live a healthy long life! Eating meat is wrong in so many ways than just morally!

  21. I’m in my junior year of nursing school and videos like these hurt me so much. It makes me hope so hard that I’m strong enough to deal with this type of thing with patients and their families. But it’s reality and our job as medical caregivers to aim for top priority at all times. Keep your eyes on the goal and accept and deal what cannot change. It’s rough.

  22. Damn you for making me cry in the bank with no tissues at hand… I lost my partner of 20 years to renal failure 10 years ago, and was painfully aware of what was coming. The worst part is the end that could take days…What a lucky man this man was to have found such a lovely wife in his twilight years.

  23. life seems to be both a blessing and a curse. i don’t even mean that in a negative way…
    life can be so incredibly painful and confusing though. and none of us know why.

  24. I came here because my grandpa died last night, so please can I borrow your prayers for him😢. I really missed him already now I'm gonna watch boxing alone, he's just like my childhood bestfriend so please lend me your prayer for my grandpa, thank you so much. Love ya all❤️

  25. When our Mother was dying, her Doctor was very cold n insensitive, very matter of fact. He stood over us as we sat next to her explaining that she was dying n there was nothing that could be done. My brother immediately stood up n told him he needed to go out of the room to talk. He wanted him to look him in the eye. I didn't catch it, I was so upset. We ended up sitting in a conference room, all making eye contact as we spoke n asked questions, having a very good conversation. I watched that Doctor's shoulders relax, his eyes changed, he went from robot to human. Afterwards, my brother told me he wanted him to know our Mother n not just be a Doctor in the ICU but a son. He didn't want a frozen man to let our Mother go, but a compassionate man. I understand that Doctors have to protect themselves from feeling or it's hard to do their job, but I'm glad my brother did that.

  26. That look at 3:28 I dread so bad to see.. The doctor isn't looking at the camera and you can barely see her face but the look of "I'm sorry..but this is it.." It's so intense heartbreaking but so compassionate..

  27. My grandmother has been told twice that she only had a little while to live. She’d respond that she was too busy to die right now. Somehow, she’s still alive 20 or so years after her first prognosis. Death can’t be stopped, but I guess there’s something to say for sheer willpower for procrastinating on its occurrence.

  28. We all die one day. Could happen tomorrow walking on the street. Truth of life we avoid to think about.

    Each day counts as if it is our last. Because it could be our last one.

  29. Old people dying is not sad. Its they way it should be.
    Telling children that they will die is unfair and sad.
    Children who have cancer is sad.

  30. Lost my dear mother a year and a half ago and I've been crying nonstop ever since. This has made me cried even more. Rest in peace, mum. Love you.

  31. very dark joke warning, you’re at the hospital and you’re told you’re gonna die, then all of a sudden “Hi I’m John Quiñones, and this is what would you do”

  32. This is rough…you come into this world crying and then your love ones are crying as you depart. This is one of the reasons why I decided not to have any children. I won't do that to them.

  33. The problem is that doctors are not there to cure, they are there to kill you! …. You should never trust doctors EVER!!! If they tell you you will die if you don’t do chemo …… run away! Chemo is poison! …. doctors will bring up your hopes to tell you they have great success with your issue ……. then they poison you and bring you to a point of no return and then they tell you: sorry there is nothing else we can do for you ……. at that point you still have 30 years of life …… unless you believe them! ….. doctors are criminals! …. I am glad I saw others live this nightmare so I could spare my family from these criminals! ….. people need to go overseas for cures. Just avoid chemo, vaccines, pill, opioids ….. and then get help abroad……

  34. I see so many people of all colors men and women do such amazing things. I am white, my doctor who is brown,(who cares), saved my eyesight . I can no longer stand to listen to any Democrat, all they talk about how racist white old males are. To them it is all about race , open boarders, higher taxes. They are racist, why just …well why waste my time. Democrats (the elected ones) are the racist.

  35. LITTLETON, Maine – Clyde G. Earle, 76, of Littleton and Florida, passed away Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, following a courageous battle with mesothelioma.

  36. "Peacefully they will die, Peacefully they will expire in Thy name, And beyond the grave they will find only death, But we will keep the secret,And for their happiness, We will allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity." Thank you Fyodor. A two thousand year old myth going as strong today as twenty centuries ago. The more preposterous the mumbo-jumbo, the more quickly will people line up to swallow it. Thank you A.N.

  37. That is not easy… I am with cancer and I don't like people saying that I may die… Only God has the right to give me that sentence….and I will give my best and live my day not like the last one but like the begning of a new story…so I talk to my son, we have plans and dreams and we motivate each other every single day.

  38. I watched my grandparents go
    First the ol'man then mother
    You could see it in their eyes they were ready they somehow knew.
    Allen .B oct 1914- 1999
    Hellen .B june 1920-2012.
    Your work is done.

  39. I remember when the doctors talked to my grandpa and put him in hospice. It’s the hardest thing to deal with having him home and pass away three days after leaving the hospital. But I know he’s in heaven healthy and happy and with no pain.

  40. i may not be a believer in christ, but god please can we get a prayer for my dead grandfather
    he died on 6 march, 2019 in his sleep age 85

  41. My dude Clyde and his wife are not only fishing, but have worked out exactly how to fish in Minecraft survival.

  42. I’ve seen cancer take several people in my life, including my father. It’s a horrible fucking disease. Those doctors and nurses in palliative care do such difficult and amazing work. Thank you if you are one of them.

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