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February 12, 1997

Geriatricians Want Better End-of-Life Care

JAMA. 1997;277(6):445-446. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540300013003

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WHETHER OR NOT the US Supreme Court decides that physicians may legally provide lethal drugs for their patients' use in suicide, the case on which it sat in judgment early last month has sparked discussion over the need for improved quality in care of the dying.

"All of us will die. But in our society dying all too often is not meaningful or even tolerable. Most of us will live to old age—the current median age at death is 77 years—and most of us will die of progressive illnesses gradually worsening over the years," said Joanne Lynn, MD, director of the Center to Improve Care of the Dying at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC. Lynn, who is chair of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) ethics committee, spoke at a press conference held by the society on the eve of the Supreme Court hearing.