You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe

Opinion

June 14, 2012 | Dr. Angelo Volandes

More help navigating end-of-life options can improve care for dying patients — and reduce costs

Helen was a renowned lecturer on Whitman, Dickinson, and Frost, and the youngest professor of American poetry to be tenured at her university. But by the time I met her, she was no longer the assured professor who delivered inspiring performances to her students. When I admitted her to the hospital, she was a 56-year-old female with aggressive glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable tumorous cranial interloper that was literally squeezing her mind from within her own skull.

She could no longer recite poetry, but along with her husband Charles (both names have been changed), she was able to answer questions about her symptoms and medical care. She was being admitted with nausea and severe headaches from the cancer crushing her brain. It had been nine months since her diagnosis, and even though the end was near, until me not a single doctor had asked her about her wishes for medical care at the end of life.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week