Thursday, October 4, 2007

Too Sick to Take Meds

From the Chicago Tribune:

"In a new study published Thursday, a group of University of Chicago doctors found many diabetics believe that the inconvenience and discomfort of their treatments, especially multiple daily insulin injections, were as bad as the complications that can result from not treating their disease.

"Some patients, 10 percent to 18 percent of the total, said their treatments were so arduous that they would be willing to die sooner -- some said up to 10 years earlier -- if they could stop their medications.

""Some of this might be lack of education and people not understanding the disease process," said Dr. Holly Mattix-Kramer, a specialist in preventive medicine and kidney disease at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "We need to do a better job educating our patients about what preventive care means and how it may affect their life span.""

I wonder if the providers evaluated these patients for depression.

There is a lot of support given to patients who are diagnosed with cancer. We have cancer support groups, we hold fund-raisers, and we generally don't fault these people for getting cancer (well, maybe we think smokers have it coming....).

In any case, there is no support for diabetics. Many diabetics have made lifestyle choices that have predisposed them to diabetes and, for some, lifestyle choices may have delayed but did not prevent the onset of diabetes. So others look at these people and "should" all over them. "You should have watched your diet. You should have lost weight. You should have..."

You cannot be dumb when you have a chronic illness. You have to track all sorts of medications, the timing, the changes in your diet and lifestyle (to include exercise and stress management as well as checking your feet every night) and then tweak your dosages when the next evidence-based practices are published. This means multiple visits to your provider and pharmacy and maybe visits to the emergency department when you take too much or too little of a medication. Think about all the time spent on managing this illness...

A multitude of factors comes into play here---psychological costs as well as very real physical costs. My only hope, as an adult nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist in adult health, is that these patients make INFORMED decisions---that is, they understand the full ramifications of the radical steps they are about to make and understand they may not be able to change their minds once they start down that path.

If they are honestly able to make this decision (and not just overwhelmed with the sheer agony of it all), then we as fellow humans have an obligation to support them in their decision and to allow them to die with dignity and grace.

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