Monday, April 6, 2009
ER premiered Sept 19, 1994 and was the creation of the late Michael Crichton. (Crichton wrote the screenplay for ER based on his experiences as a resident.) On Thursday, April 2nd, after a 15 year run, the series finale aired on NBC, entitled "And in the End..."
First off, one of the main plot lines was actually based on a true story. Executive producer, John Wells, 17 year old niece died from alcohol poisoning in December. This plot line, in which a teenager is brought in after a night of binge drinking, was written to raise awareness about this issue.
Another case involved a gentleman with AIDS brought in for breathing difficulties. After a workup, he is diagnosed with cancer. When the resident brings up chemotherapy to buy him a few more months, the patient refuses saying that for years now he has just been living for all of his friends who have died from AIDS. "I've been trying to live for them, you know, keep their memories alive. But I've had my time. No regrets." He goes on to describe an experience skydiving and hopes that death feels the same.
Resident: Is there anything I can do for you?
Patient: Yeah, there is. I don't want it to hurt.
Resident: We can help with that.
But to me, the most impressive story was that of an elderly MS patient admitted with pulmonary edema and sepsis. (Sorry, I couldn't find a good clip of this. But the full episode can be legally watched on the NBC website here.) The doctor explains to the husband that they can give his wife IV fluids but it will only do more damage to her lungs. When her husband wants more aggressive things done, the doctor explains that even with aggressive treatments her life will only be prolonged by a week or two (He prognosticates while having a goals of care conversation! Is this the first time that has been seen on TV?) and these things will just prolong her pain and suffering. He then says "It's time to talk about how to make her as comfortable as possible." Later in the episode, the husband is upset that his wife has an apneic episode. The nurse explains that irregular breathing is a normal part of the dying process.