'Harvard death' is a phrase used in the medical profession to refer to the aggressive and persistent treatment of all symptoms regardless of expected effect on patient outcomes. This is used either when the goal is to normalize the laboratory test values regardless of patient quality of life, or when a terminally ill patient is given any and all treatments despite a forgone outcome. This is a pejorative term, indicating that what is actually needed is palliative care.

The first recorded use of the phrase appears to be in a N.Y. Times article from 1985 ("Doctors Ask, Who Lives? When to Die?"), although reports of it being used before this are not uncommon. The origin appears to be a reference to overachieving med students who are obsessed with getting lab results to match those given in the textbook, rather than focusing on patient needs.

Brevity Quest 2016

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