The Problem of Hubris
Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande calls for a new approach to the two great unfixable problems in life and healthcare - ageing and death. He tells the story of how his daughter's piano teacher faced up to terminal cancer and the crucial choices she made about how to spend her final days. He says the teacher was only able to do this because of an essential honesty from her physicians and the people around her. Dr. Gawande argues that the common reluctance of society and medical institutions to recognise the limits of what professionals can do can end up increasing the suffering of patients towards the end of life. He proposes that both doctors and individuals ask a series of simple but penetrating questions to decide what kind of treatment is appropriate - or whether treatment is appropriate at all. And he praises the values of the hospice movement, in putting quality of life before prolonging life. The programme was recorded at The Royal Society in Edinburgh in front of an audience. The Reith Lectures are introduced and chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.