Jessica Zitter became a doctor because she wanted to be a hero. She elected to specialize in critical care, becoming an ICU physician who imagined herself rescuing patients from the brink of death. But then during her first code she found herself cracking the ribs of a patient so old and frail it was unimaginable he would ever come back to life. She began to question her choice.
Extreme Measures charts Jessica’s two-decade journey through intensive care units across the country and her discovery of an approach to medicine that transformed her vision of what it means to be a hero.
Over that time, she saw the reality of how end-of-life plays out in our current medical culture, where mechanization and protocol override personal preference and collaborative decision-making. In our current medical culture, the old and the ill are intubated, catheterized, and even shelved away in care facilities to suffer their final days alone, confused, and often in pain.
Again and again, she saw how the same medical technology that saves lives can increase suffering for those who are truly dying. And far too often, patients and families accepting treatment by “extreme measures” without understanding the complete picture of what they can expect and whether it will change the prognosis.
In her work Zitter has learned what patients fear more than death itself: the prospect of dying badly. She builds bridges between patients and caregivers, formulates plans to allay patients’ pain and anxiety, and enlists the support of loved ones so that life can end well, even beautifully.
Told through the heroic stories of everyday people, Extreme Measures shares an insider’s perspective on the front lines of the public health crisis that touches us all: people dying badly.
It brings the reader into a world that most will only venture into during crisis, and extends a guiding hand to help patients, family members, and health care providers alike navigate this harrowing terrain with radical honesty, authentic communication, and vibrant collaboration. What Dr. Zitter calls: a new kind of heroism.