Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Fear-mongering vs. Reality
A few posts ago, I made my argument in favor of organ/tissue donation and cremation. Some may have viewed it as a bit of an eeeuuuw. When it comes right down to it, every human being starts the dying process the day we're born. It's not something pleasing to think about, so we don't -- until it smacks us in the face. With that in mind, I'm wondering why so many gray-haired-types are enraged about the health care reform proposal to allow Medicare-paid doctors to discuss and make decisions about end of life issues with their patients. Some uninformed or misguided types have ranted about "death panels" and other outlandish ideas. This has been propagated by special interest groups. The health care industry is well organized and funded. The argument is about their suffering bottom lines, not suffering humans. The fact is that if we are lucky enough to live a long life, we may end up with an incurable disease or condition. Choices will need to be made. Does it make more sense to discuss our healthcare options with our physicians or with a drug manufacturer? Who took the Hippocratic Oath? End of life counseling is about giving every American the opportunity to decide, in advance, how they want to be treated in the event that they develop a terminal disease. Living wills are an example of this. A person can decide at which point they want no further medical intervention. She can opt for palliative care to ease pain and anxiety so that she can die with dignity. Conversely, she can decide to continue fighting until the medical arsenal is empty. It's about choice. Long before my dad was in the last weeks of his life, we knew his preferences as to how he would spend them. He was clear-minded enough to decide whether or not to continue taking an experimental drug in hopes of shrinking or curing his cancer. He opted against that because the side-effects were dreadful and there was absolutely no guarantee that it would work. Trust me, absolutely NO ONE was thinking about speeding-up his demise! It was painfully clear to everyone, including Dad, that he had a limited amount of time left with us. He chose in-home hospice care and his comfort became our one and only goal. We spent some memorable days with Dad, feeding him his favorite foods and reminiscing. Saying good-bye this way greatly eased his mind and ours. As painful as it was to watch him take his last breath, he was surrounded by his family and we had each other for support. We were all relieved that his decision, made weeks earlier with his doctors, to die at home and in his own bed was honored.