Support the news

Hospice Doctor Helps Families Navigate The End Of Life08:03

Dr. David Casarett was inspired by his father's death to specialize in end of life care.MoreCloseclosemore
Dr. David Casarett was inspired by his father's death to specialize in end of life care.

It's a conversation with patients, with families, with hospice staff, who really want to do the best they possibly can, who want to relieve suffering.

David Casarett

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions.

At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. "It's a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing ... and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request," he says. "Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?"

As for his own preferences, Casarett says they've changed. He's been doing research for a book he's writing, and in the process he's become more inclined toward aggressive treatment. "If I were to track my preferences over time, my preferences for treatment at the end of life have gotten much more ... optimistic just over the last six months. So it's a moving target."

Join Our Sunday Conversation

If a loved one was suffering, would you help him or her die? Tell us on Weekend Edition's Facebook page or in the comment section below.

Copyright NPR 2019.

+Join the discussion

Support the news