When the news broke earlier this month that Sen. John McCain had been diagnosed with brain cancer, Republicans and Democrats alike praised the decorated war hero as a tough warrior who would beat the disease.
But while such statements are well-meaning, medical ethicist Arthur Caplan says it's time to stop using the language of war and the battlefield when we talk about cancer.
"Not everybody chooses or has to be a 'fighter,'" Caplan said. "Some people may decide they're done with medical interventions, they don't want any chemotherapy, they don't want any more radiation, they want to go out with a better quality of life than their treatments will let them have."
Caplan also asks: If we tell people to 'fight' their cancer, what does that imply if they die?
"Cancer doesn't care if you fight. Cancer really doesn't," Caplan said. "If you die, it doesn't mean you're a coward or you didn't try hard enough or somehow did something wrong. You don't want to wind up blaming people for the fact that terminal illnesses can take care of all of us."
To hear more from Art Caplan, click on the audio player above. To read his editorial about this subject, click here.