The Conversation with Dr. Atul Gawande

ABC's Lana Zak spoke with Dr. Atul Gawande about having "the conversation" about end of life issues.
3:00 | 09/26/12

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Transcript for The Conversation with Dr. Atul Gawande
So many of you have said that you expect your doctors initiate the conversation when the time is -- But whether or not doctors are doing so is the question that let us here to bring him and women's hospital. For half of patients they will end up being in the health system four. You. And 70% of them end up needing someone else to make their decisions because they become incapacitated. Well when you're there in that moment. And you're talking of the -- when you're saying. How much will it bother your father if he ends up this way. And they say more often than not. I don't know we never talked back. That. That it is incredibly traumatic for family for a doctors involved there's often conflict. It can tear families apart. As people try to figure out what the right thing to do is. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- What I can tell you is we don't have the conversation often enough a study from seven cancer centers terminal cancer patients found that. Only a third ended up having a discussion with their doctor about their goals for end of life. Those patients that did far better than the other -- -- they had less suffering. They were less likely to end up dying in hospital there -- more likely to be at home. They hear their pain was better control. And -- failing -- Six month afterwards after they passed away their family members were less likely to be depressed. But two thirds were having these conversations. A lot of people we have heard from. Believe that then they'll have the conversation doctor tells him leave them and the congress -- We think about it is that the right approach to -- -- Well now the study shows that doctors tend to overestimate. Get wrong. When death might come. And we are off by a factor of five fold wrong about when it might occur. In other words we're we're we're much more likely to. Think we have more time to have that discussion we really. The doctor -- -- particularly in Manhattan competition before the crisis them. People everywhere. Want to live that and when you have. You come into the medical world and someone is offering you know a fourth round of chemotherapy or any operation. Your assumption is this could only be good it's gonna give me something we all want the lottery ticket. But we don't plan for what happens if your lottery number doesn't come up.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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