A gift Americans owe to themselves and their country in 2013 is lessons on how to die.
Doctors know this. They don't spend their final hours like the other 2.4 million Americans who die every year. They've seen patients hooked up to tubes in hospital beds, suffering unnecessary pain and indignity, while tens of thousands of dollars are spent on every medical option to extend lives that are clearly near the end. According to a Johns Hopkins study, most doctors have advance directives, reject CPR and live their final days with dignity, at home or in a hospice, surrounded by loved ones.
The San Jose Mercury News' Lisa M. Krieger has spent the past year grappling with our approach to death in America. Her insightful, heartfelt series, "The Cost of Dying," concluded with a practical analysis of how to change end-of-life medicine. She encouraged us to take charge of our own deaths, tell doctors what we want, reject treatments that we really know can't help and this is most important consider suffering, not death, the enemy. Expanding access to hospice care is a key to all this.