Secrets of Korean Medicine, Part 29: Life Should End With a Comfortable Death
The question of what constitutes good end-of-life care is one that perplexes physicians around the world. In 2011, a survey conducted by the Gerontological Association of Japan asked doctors how they would deal with an 85-year-old patient who has late-stage Alzheimer’s and is unable to eat or drink even with assistance.
Among the 1,554 who responded to the survey, 51 percent said they would give an intravenous injection of Ringer’s solution in the patient’s arm or leg; 21 percent said they would supply nutrients through a feeding tube directly into the stomach; 13 percent said they would opt for a nasal feeding tube; and only 10 percent said they would consider making the patient comfortable and allowing death to come naturally.
The 10 percent who said they would quietly observe the patient have since been criticized by professionals who reviewed the survey. The reviewers said these doctors would be neglecting their duties as physicians. This view is in line with the current majority medical opinion that it is the duty of physicians to take all possible measures to enable their patients to live for even a short while longer, even if the patient is an elderly person dying of natural causes.
But is this opinion correct? We must ask ourselves who benefits if we sustain the lives of this kind of patient for another few days, weeks, or months?
On this issue, public opinion seems to concur with the medical one. Regardless of how old our parents may be, for most of us living in the modern era, unless our parents have specifically requested otherwise, it is normal to rush them to the hospital and have doctors take every measure possible to sustain their life even if it is clear that they will not be able to recover and live a high quality of life.
Taking these life-saving measures may console us that we have done our duty as their child even if our parents pass away without the treatments having had any effect. However on the other hand, measures that prolong life can also be seen as completely ignoring the right of patients to end their life with dignity.
It is inevitable that all humans die, and allowing people to confront the last moments of their lives quietly and comfortably may in many cases show more caring than fighting to sustain their lives.
We have the tendency to view death as something to be feared and avoided at all costs, and the advancement in medical science has created many ways to extend life, even if for a short while. However, this is not the order of nature. Without exceptions, nature ends a life when it has run its course. Thus the common practice of physicians trying to extend a life even if for just a short while, often at the behest of family members, runs counter to the course of nature.
Although it is clear that physicians do need to do everything they can to save patients who have the potential to recover, forcing patients who clearly will not recover to pass away in the midst of pain and suffering caused by interventions to prolong their lives is an issue we need to address.
Cancer Treatment More Painful Than the Disease
When cancer is detected in a late stage, it means that patients ignored the progress of the disease because they had no pain and were not aware of it. At this point, a physician will usually implement various measures to attack the cancer cells, including surgery to remove the tumor, and chemotherapy or radiation. Unfortunately these measures do not fundamentally solve the issue that caused the cancer in the first place, and patients are subjected to even greater pain than that caused by their illness.
Just imagine how the body responds when highly toxic anti-cancer drugs are poured into it, and it is burned with radiation like meat grilled on a fire? How can the body be at peace under these conditions? Patients experience even more pain and suffering because of cancer treatment.
Another Solution for Late-Stage Cancer
In order to suppress cancer cells and to achieve true health, fundamental order must be established in the body. For this order to be established, the immune system must be strengthened.
In my experience with cancer patients, restoring the proper functioning of the lymphatic system is key for strengthening the immune system. The lymphatic system is responsible for transporting disease-fighting white blood cells throughout the body, and to strengthen it, I focus on the tonsils. The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and a key first line of defense for the immune system. Cleansing the lungs fortifies the tonsils.
In my experience, after two months of cleansing the lungs, the tonsils regain their health. After four months of cleansing, the fortified tonsils are able to suppress cancer cells. If at this point the tumor does not grow any more, then this cancer can usually be treated successfully.
I have also found that more often than not, it is possible to treat tumors that are less than 2 inches in diameter if they do not grow any more after four months of cleansing the lungs, and if there continues to be no change in size at all after six months.
However, this is limited to patients who have not undergone chemotherapy and radiation. I have found that the rate of full remission decreases drastically after these treatments, with extremely few patients being cured if they have completed chemotherapy and radiation.
For cancers with tumors larger than 2 inches in diameter, it is important to note that while they may not be fully curable, it is possible to improve patients’ conditions. It is possible to stop tumors larger than this from causing further mayhem within a patient’s body. This means that even severely ill cancer patients with terminal diagnoses can live out their lives in relative comfort.
If their immunity is sufficiently fortified through cleansing their lungs, it is possible to suppress the further spread of their cancer and prevent it from metastasizing to other parts of the body. Accordingly, terminal-stage cancer patients are able to confront death more comfortably, experiencing less pain and agony.
Death With Dignity
I attained a profound realization through the death of a patient of mine who was a Catholic friar and who passed away from lung cancer.
When I first began treating him with Korean herbal medicine to cleanse his lungs, I told him not to give up hope and that he would definitely be cured. However, he passed away a year later, and I was burdened with a great deal of guilt because of the failure of my therapy to cure his illness.
Then quite some time after his death, one of his fellow friars visited me and told me something I did not expect. The friar who passed away had wanted to convey to me that he was grateful to be able to pass away comfortably and without pain because of my treatment.
At that moment, I came to the understanding that a comfortable and noble death is a fundamental right that all humans ought to enjoy.
In my view, it is a huge mistake to subject a patient who is facing the last days of life to a great deal of pain and the ordeal of extensive treatment with surgery, radiation, and other invasive anti-cancer therapies. In these cases, it is not necessary to do everything possible to sustain the life. From this perspective, my lung-cleansing therapy was not a failure for the friar, but a success.
Thus, in dealing with terminal cancer patients, it is necessary to view their situations more broadly, with respect for the natural course of life, and allow them to confront death gracefully. We need to discard the idea that it is better to ceaselessly strive to achieve full remission.
Rather than striving to cure all cancer, we ought to manage cancer in order for the patient to have a comfortable, pain-free death as much as possible. For this, the key is to fortify their immunity by improving of the health of their tonsils through cleansing their lungs.
Dr. Seo Hyo-seok is the director of the Pyunkang Korean Medicine Hospital, which has seven branches in South Korea, one at Stanton University in California, and one in Atlanta. Dr. Seo entered Kyung Hee University in Korea at the top of his class and after years of research, developed the Pyunkang-Hwan herbal formula, which improves immunity by strengthening lung function. It has helped cure over 155,000 patients of various conditions.
Find out more at Pyunkang.com