I am dying and you are, too. We are all dying from the moment we’re born. If we’re lucky, we´ll be old in the process and if we are extremely lucky we could be in good health during part of that process. But the truth is, at one point we’ll deteriorate and become dependent and fragile and then we’ll be victims of crazy medicine. Modern medicine is determined to keep us alive, no matter what. Death is a failure, a forbidden act of treachery to science. We are obsessed with being and looking young, eager to believe that immortality is possible somewhere in the near future. There is a kind of shame on being elderly, even the word is frown upon. Medicine is sold as infallible, everything can be cured and if you die, it was just your fault because you didn’t fight hard enough.
We have slowly become intolerant to any kind of discomfort, a simple ailment will trigger a visit to the doctor in a society unable of any basic self-care. Medicine seems the answer to everything and anything is now susceptible of medical treatment, from menopause to a broken heart. There is no limit to our expectations, health is the new human right, eternal youth a must. Decisions seem to be made based on whether a malady can be treated rather than if it should be treated. The scientific part of science has overtaken the ethical issues, the compassion, the right and wrong. A huge tragedy when it comes to the end of life. Picture a 90 year old little lady who suffers severe dementia, spends day and night curled up in bed unable to recognize her children or remember her own name, choking regularly and unable to control bowels or bladder. I may be her one day, you could be too. That little old thing will continue to be given medicines and any new symptom will be treated. Running a temperature or a bad cough will be managed with the same intensity in a 30 year old than in our lady. Avoiding ageism is far more politically correct than humanism, running some tests and giving antibiotics is far easier than having a long chat with a distressed family reflecting upon life and death. Death conversations are averted if at all possible, families are not given the chance to consider that doing nothing is as good a possibility as doing everything possible. It is a hamster wheel hard to stop
We aim to having a long life but not a long death. If I am ever that poor lady and you happen to be my doctor, please let death do us apart. Tender loving care is all I will need, Palliative Care is all I will want. That is good medicine, too.