Living With Life Threatening Illness Course
A few weeks before his death in 2006, former Center for Ethics in Health Care faculty member Miles J. Edwards, MD, was asked how he wanted to spend his remaining days. His simple answer was that he would like to continue teaching, and so he did. Drawing from his own final illness, he taught some of his most compelling lessons about patient care nearing the end of his life.
The Living With Life Threatening course was designed for first year medical students at Oregon Health & Science University. The course gives students the opportunity to learn directly from patients and families what it is like to deal with serious illness. Each student gets to know a particular patient and family in depth by having multiple informal visits with the patient-teacher throughout the course.
The visits allow students to form meaningful relationships with people who are facing the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual issues of life-threatening illness, anticipated death, and bereavement. Each patient-teacher is welcome to share their thoughts and feelings about their illness, the care they've received, concerns about the future, and the impact of their illness on the family. Often times we learn from students that the course had a major impact on their medical career as it prepares students to have difficult conversations with terminal patients.
"I've come a long way since the Living with Life Threatening Illness elective! (and I use those skills nearly every day). It's hard not to articulate the pride I feel from training at OHSU, in large part because of the humanity and high ethical standards of the mentors I had along the way. Thank you so much for your role in my journey. In that vein, just yesterday, I engaged a very sick patient's wife in a conversation about end-of-life and his poor prognosis. I didn't know her well, but as we were talking, I felt the need to hold her hand in the conversation. You were the one to teach me that human touch is not only okay, but welcomed and sometimes necessary. I grabbed her hand, and when I did, she let down tears and wanted a hug. It was a really sweet moment and I thank you for teaching me."
- Erin Chamberlain, Class of 2013
Click here to view a video that shares more about the impact of the Living With Life Threatening Illness Class.