How Long Can You Live?

For my last big running event, when it came time to record any pertinent medical information on the back of my race number, I thought of my senior-citizen status and considered simply writing “Do Not Resuscitate.”

But seriously, end-of-life considerations are becoming more and more complicated, thanks to technology. Health-care workers can now keep a body functioning indefinitely. But this gets to the very basic question of what is life anyway? When does quality of life trump lifespan?

“The Magic Machine” is a podcast on that very subject. It’s available courtesy of NPR’s program “Undiscovered” —

As a critical care doctor, Jessica Zitter has seen plenty of “Hail Mary” attempts to save dying patients go bad—attempts where doctors try interventions that don’t change the outcome, but do lead to more patient suffering. It’s left her distrustful of flashy medical technology and a culture that insists that more treatment is always better. But when a new patient goes into cardiac arrest, the case doesn’t play out the way Jessica expected. She finds herself fighting for hours to revive him—and reaching for a game-changing technology that uncomfortably blurs the lines between life and death.

This podcast is a good catalyst for considering end-of-life questions, specifically how far should our doctors go to prolong life? It can be found at; this site also includes “Resources” for finding more information on end-of-life issues. (The illustration came from that website.)

Have a nice day!

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