Saturday, January 23, 2010

End of Life


We are spending phenomenal sums trying to save a small minority.  Recently, an important journal has seen fit to address this issue.  I highly recommend that is you can lay your hands on the article, you read it and think very hard on the discussion that I hope it begins.

The United States has gone Alan Alda in this score.  Hawkeye saw death as an enemy to be conquered through the skills and dedication of the saintly doctors who saw life as the only value on the planet.

I question this belief.

Death comes to all.  It appears to me that through the means of relentless and profligate use of technology, we have so cheapened the concept of life of as a full cycle, defined by dignity and freedom, that we are poisoning our collective souls.  

To meet ones maker is the one true passage of life other than entering the mortal coil.  To pretend that the passage of death is an enemy to be fought takes from us the touchstone that our actions here on this earth are rites of passage to another, possibly greater existence.  Instead, by the mistaken belief that the loss of your individual ego is an evil event, we place our personal existence, comfort, and desires as the be all and end all of existence.

Even if one chooses to not believe in an afterlife, the focus on the extension of ones personal existence is a burden on those around.  How much of society must have an inadequate level of health care at the most basic levels in order for the monstrous egos of both doctor and patient to be further inflated by the strip mining of resources better devoted to more basic needs?


Gather ye marbles said...

Interesting questions there. Personally, should I be looking someday at the Terminal Phase (as opposed to getting hit by a truck), I'd like to have the option of offing myself in some fairly pleasant way. A morphine overdose would be nice. There was an article in the New York Times in March '09 called "Religious Belief Linked to Desire for Aggressive Treatment in Terminal Patients", reporting on a JAMA study. Summary of findings: "Terminally ill cancer patients who drew comfort from religion were far more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they died than were less religious patients and far more likely to want doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive, a study has found." Counter-intuitive? Or is it? My sense of it (as a non-believer) is that belief in an afterlife may for some be a way of whistling past the graveyard and not dealing with the fear of death, an avoidance which may leave one less prepared for it when it does come. To quote William Shatner (from his song "You'll Have Time"): "Live life like you're gonna die, because you're gonna."

Degringolade said...


This actually raises one of the two fundamental questions.

Does the soul exist?

How one answers that will probably end up having a big influence on how one approaches one's mortality. But, even if you do not presuppose the existence of a soul, the desire of an individual to take a unfair amount of a limited resource (yes, I believe that health care in the current model is a limited resource), this constitutes an injustice.