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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Seniors' Health Channel
Reported January 31, 2011

Dealing With Death: Mistakes We All Make

PASADENA, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --In medicine, there’s one ultimate enemy. It’s what doctors try their hardest to avoid and what patients will fight until they have no options left. But death is an inescapable part of life, and we’ll all have to deal with it at some point. Do you know what to say or do if your loved one gets a terminal diagnosis? We’ll tell you about some common mistakes people make.  

Robert Gorelick traveled the world with his wife Sarah. But when Sarah was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer – Robert’s world turned upside down.

“There was never five minutes where she could forget she was ill,” Gorelick said.
How loved ones like Robert react can make all the difference for someone who is dying. One mistake: not using the right language. Experts say we shouldn’t talk about “winning” or “surviving” because when it’s time to face death, it feels like “losing” or “failing” to the patient.

“Could we possible see it as, you completed your life?” David Kessler, a grief and dying expert told Ivanhoe.  

Another mistake: not using hospice or palliative care. One study of more than 4,000 patients found hospice care extended survival for those with pancreatic cancer by three weeks, lung cancer by six weeks and heart failure by three months.

“You have someone here if they are in pain. It’s taken care of,” Gloria Herle, a woman whose father has terminal lung cancer told Ivanhoe.

Mistake number three: suggesting aggressive treatment when it won’t make the patient better. A recent study says two-thirds of patients will undergo therapies they don’t want if it’s what their loved ones want.

“The first thing you have to ask yourself is what would my loved one have wanted?” Kessler said.

The last mistake is not asking for a physical reminder of your loved one – such as letters, a written story or a recorded message.

“We even did a handprint of the mom for this young girl that she can always touch and just have that connection that children crave so badly,” Cindy Cisneros told Ivanhoe.

Robert holds onto lots of pictures of the wife he lost. Sweet memories during the most difficult time of his life.

Want another tip? You may want to rethink what your doctor tells you about your loved one. One study found 40 percent of oncologists report offering treatments that they believe are unlikely to work. And 63 percent of doctors in a Harvard study overestimated the survival time of their patients. The average estimate was 530 percent too high!

For additional research on this article, click here.

Sign up for a free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs called First to Know by clicking here.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at

For More Information, Contact:

David Kessler
Co-Author “ On Grief and Grieving”

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