Speaker to Give Talk About End-of-Life Care in America

ira_via_website.jpgIra Byock. Via irabyock.org

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The United States health care system is taking away the personal touch to its end-of-life care, at least according to one doctor who’ll be flying up to Kodiak to hold a talk this Friday.

Ira Byock is Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health and Services, located in California, and has a long experience with hospice work and caring for those with serious illnesses. He says as far as delivering personalized treatment, the country’s health care system falls short.

“I think the main thing that we could improve on in health care in the United States is having conversations with people about what matters most to them when they are seriously ill and might not survive,” says Byock. “Too often in America we assume that the fundamental nature of illness and dying in America is medical.”
Byock says a physician’s approach needs to take the individual and their family into consideration first. 

“If I’ve learned anything during 35 years of practice, it is that the best care is not a one-size fits all model,” Byock says. “Disease treatment, you can look at best practices and algorithms and look up the best treatments, but when you’re caring for a whole person, you have to do it in a way that is particular to their personality, their preferences.”

He says part of the problem is the medical arena can be too clinical in its approach.

“You know in the United States, mostly we see people as a set of medical problems to be solved and we really rely so much, almost exclusively, on the science and technology, which filters out all of  the personal attributes – all of the ethnicity, and the cultures and the traditions and the rituals – even the foods that matter a lot to people.”

Byock says patients and doctors need to know that they can – and should – maintain an open dialogue. One way to achieve that is through education.

“This stuff can be taught. This caring well for seriously ill and dying people can be taught, but it can’t be taught in one lecture. It can’t be taught in a day,” says Byock. “It really requires the same time on-service, the close mentoring that is the way medical care is taught generation to generation in the mainstream.”

You can hear Byock speak more on this topic Friday at the KANA Koniag building on Near Island from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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