Dr. Vincent DeGennaro Jr. ’02 | September 18, 2014 | Notre Dame Magazine
“Either way, no matter what we do, you’ll live less than 12 months, probably less than nine. Even if we were in the United States, your disease is incurable.” He nodded slowly in understanding. Jean Dominique was only in his 40s and had teenagers at home. “We can treat your pain and other symptoms, but we can’t do anything to treat the cancer,” I offer.
At least once a week, I sit down next to a patient and tell them they have an incurable cancer or kidney failure or heart failure. The range of responses varies, but usually the patient is stone-faced and quiet. They rarely ask questions about how long they have to live or even if they’re going to die.
Patients in developing countries make drastically different choices than those in the United States. It’s not only a question of not having the resources to stave off the inevitable; it’s also that they perceive time and death differently.