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Professors View Prolonging Life As Cruel, If Death Is Inevitable

Publication Date: 
November 10, 2009
Monterey County Herald
Jane Palmer

Professor Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, was a speaker at a lecture titled "Who Owns Life?" He is quoted in the Monterey County Herald:

Advances in medicine can improve our lives but not necessarily our deaths, said a Stanford university professor speaking at Monday's "Who Owns Life?" lecture at the Monterey Conference Center.

While medical technology has advanced in the last two decades, sometimes, attempts to improve a person's life when death is imminent are not only futile but painful, said David Magnus, before the talk co-presented by Monterey Peninsula College and the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.


Family members are hanging on to hope that a miracle will happen, without considering the quality of those final hours, said Stanford professor Hank Greely, who was a featured speaker at Monday's talk. "This is America — where we don't believe in unhappy endings."


Magnus recommends addressing this issue by drawing up an advance directive. Greely recommends frank discussions between seniors and their family members well in advance of their dying days.

"Talk to them enough so they will be comfortable when the time comes that they are doing the right thing," Greely said.

"Any peace of mind that you can give your loved ones is precious," he said. "It is the last gift that you can give your family members."