Our anesthesiologist and others on the operating room team were opposed to performing a surgery on a patient on hospice with only weeks to live. The anesthesiologist was trained in Britain and noted that Thomas’ cataracts would never be removed there, where committees decide on the utility of certain treatments and procedures. For someone who would only get a few weeks of “use” out of his surgery, the costs couldn’t be justified. Thomas’ oncologist was concerned about his health and had a serious discussion with him. However, Thomas understood the risks and decided it was worth it to undergo the surgery.
After his surgery, Thomas regained his independence. He was able to drive himself to his appointments. He went to a family reunion where he was able to visit with relatives he had not seen clearly in years, and he could interact with his grandchildren for the last time. He died a few weeks after the operation.
So were we right to perform this surgery? Or were we greedy doctors, only out for the bottom line, driving up the cost of medical care in this country?