SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A first of its kind study confirms no one in the US really wants to talk about dying-- even doctors.
The Mercy Health System, parent to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, surveyed more than 600 doctors, most of them in Springfield.
These physicians answered a 38-question survey where they were asked about their comfort level when treating terminally ill and dying patients.
More than 75% of them said they experience at least moderate anxiety.
"Krystal is my first born, she's 26 years old," she has two little boys, and she's dying.
Lura George says it's therapeutic to talk about it.
"There were several times if it hadn't been the nurses giving me a shoulder to cry on I don't know what I would have done," Lura tells us, tears in her eyes.
Krystal has brain cancer two surgeries couldn't cure. The concept was foreign to her mother but the doctors and nurses at St. John's are excellent interpreters.
"He told us that she'll just get sleepier and sleepier and one day she'll just go to sleep and she just won't wake up," Lura says, pausing to compose herself. "He did a really good job."
The truth hurts, but Lura needs to hear it. A new study says most doctors have a tougher time than Lura saying it.
"The problem is physicians aren't taught in med school to make that change, all of a sudden make a right turn and say, 'I can't cure this person so now what do I do?'" explains Dr. Bob Saylor, Director of Ethics at St. John's.
Saylor is helping to implement training programs in the Mercy Health System for doctors like Albert Leonardo who make right turns on a regular basis.
"There are days when it's good and days when it's bad but if you want it done properly you really have to want to do this job. It's kind of a calling because it really wears on you some times," says Leonardo.
His specialty is terminally ill and hospice patients. He's been working with people like Krystal for nearly a decade yet the anxiety never goes away.
"It's a very emotional subject."
Leonardo is a proponent of more training.
Lura says a kind-hearted, well-educated staff has helped, but in the end she'll still lose her daughter.
"She's a very loving person and I'm going to miss her. Not just because she's my daughter but because she's a good girl, she's a good human being. The world don't know what they're losing."
Krystal was released from the hospital Tuesday.
Lura is taking her to their home in Lebanon where she'll be have help from hospice.
Lura says her sole purpose is to ensure her daughter is happy and comfortable for the rest of her days.
As a result of the study Mercy will be adding more classes to help doctors and nurses deal consistently with patients at the end of their lives.
It will pinpoint physicians who do it best and use them as mentors.