Feb 1, 2022 - Health

The overmedicalization of death

Pattern of gravestones.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The process of dying has become over-medicalized, resulting in increased suffering, loss of dignity and inefficient use of resources at the end of life, according to a report released Monday by a new Lancet Commission.

The big picture: Technological and medical advances fueled the idea that science can defeat death, increasing the over-reliance on medical interventions, the authors say.

  • Deaths during the COVID pandemic, in which individuals have had to be isolated from family members in ICUs, even in their final moments, were an example of this trend.

What they're saying: "How people die has changed dramatically over the past 60 years, from a family event with occasional medical support, to a medical event with limited family support," said Libby Sallnow, co-chairwoman of the commission.

  • The commission called for a "rethink" of how society approaches death, including improving community involvement and social care services, bereavement support and improvements in "death literacy."
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