4 out of 5 doctors are afraid of patients dying. I’m not one of them
After the previous emergency physician, the surgeon, the hospitalist and the intensivist all evaluated a 90-year-old man with a rigid abdomen, congestive heart failure and low blood pressure, they admitted him to the ICU.
I questioned if the son really knew his father’s condition was a natural consequence of heart failure and death was imminent. Did he want his father to die in the ICU or at home? He agreed to hospice and wondered what would happen next. I said, “He’ll probably get better.”
The man actually got better and was hungry. He and his son enjoyed a piece of chocolate cake together before returning home. Giving patients and caregivers the courage to end life with a full heart is my passion and more important than pretending to save lives.
Raised on the outskirts of Trenton, Illinois, I credit my parents for providing me the values instilled in a Catholic upbringing from elementary school to the Jesuit training at Saint Louis University. My dream of becoming a doctor became a reality upon graduating from Southern Illinois University Medical School. During my Internal Medicine residency at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, I moonlighted in the emergency department and have continued “living the dream” as an emergency physician.
I am an excitement-seeker and have enjoyed snowboarding in Chile, scuba-diving at the Great Barrier Reef, exchanging yoga for a cultural experience of Cuba. This desire to travel led me to move to the Valley of the Sun – Phoenix, Arizona and to explore a deeper spiritual connection to healing through the practice of yoga.
Being a “wounded child,” I’ve sought out opportunities to heal myself through helping others. I volunteered to be a buddy for the St. Louis Effort for AIDS and became a big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Arizona. These experiences have inspired a greater calling to mentor those near the end of life.
Landmark Education gave me the tools to unmask human potential, while Brugh Joy, MD guided my spiritual awakening through explained how to be heart-centered. These teachings along with the practice of yoga have allowed me to appreciate the end-of life being a spiritual journey and not a medical conquest.
Marching to the beat of a world champion drum corps, the Cavaliers- hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, each way on subsequent days – completing the Dublin Marathon with no prior training, and writing a book without formal training are dares I have chosen to take in life. This no-holds- barred attitude calls me to make the end of life a rewarding experience for myself and others.
Emergency physician, Kevin Haselhorst, MD, an expert on advance care planning, speaks to patients, family members and healthcare providers about advance directives, palliative care and dying with dignity. He’s the author of “Wishes To Die For”, “Is Palliative Care Right for YOU?”, and the forthcoming “The 4 Seasons to Caregiving.”
Dr. H practices at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. He is a contributing writer for the Arizona Republic’s Ask the Expert Column, publishes Dr. H’s Clipboard: twice-a-month e-tips for advance care planning. He moderates DrH4Caregivers: Support groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where caregivers and healthcare professionals share concerns, post articles and offer support.
Learn more at KevinHaselhorst.com