For John, BLUF: Some take a long and arduous trip before they come to you. The question is, should the Government, to save money, be encouraging them to visit you sooner?
My Middle Brother, Lance, and I have been having a dialogue, maybe more, since we copy the youngest, John, on our EMails. It involves end of life decisions. Our Mother, who was suffering from Cancer, had a do not resuscitate order. I was out to the Coast for a long weekend visit and the night I flew home she fell and broke her hip (or her hip broke and she thus fell). The doctors reset it, but she died the next night. By then I was back in the DC area, and as she told me, her ashes would be scattered before I could get back out. And so it went. Our Father, at age 90, spend a couple of weeks in the hospital and passed away.
The question is, what is the best way to deal with end of life issues? Today Lance sent along this URL, which is a link to a San Jose Mercury News article. The author, Lisa M Krieger, is no relation that we know of.♠
Of course there was the expected back and forth. My Brother does some work with the sick and dying, so he sees the human face of this. We are, I believe, both in agreement with the Church's teachings, which include:
Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article Five, Item 2278.
After that it is all down hill.
My position is that medical research is extending life and in doing so, doing good. That extension of life is not easy. There was an article in The New Yorker a while back that talked about some terrible surgeon down in Boston who would put his patients through all sorts of abuse in order to perfect organ transplants.♥ Surgeons are arrogant people. They have to be.
I asserted that life doesn't have to stop at 65. People can be productive workers past that age. On the other hand, some in our society are physically and mentally past 70 by the time they hit 55. Our prison system sees those folks all the time. One problem for the future is to find a way to identify such people and help them without sweeping up everyone else.
Even so, there is no reason to start putting expiration dates on people.
Let them go as they feel they wish to go.
Then my Brother responded:
- Your biases are keeping you from any critical thinking on the subject. And as a result you make preposterous statements, speaking in politically oriented, wrong headed, blurbs.
- Your assertion is ridiculous: if a quarter of medicare money is spent on the last year of life how does that have anything to do with extending productive lives (and studies have shown that heroics actually tend to shorten life).
There are no easy answers here, and I have the keyboard, although the comments are open to any who wise to opine. For sure, when we hear talk regarding the Fiscal Cliff that includes "entitlements" the Medicare issue is wrapped up in there and these end of life costs are also wrapped up in there. When Governor Sarah Palin spoke of "death panels" she was not far off, in as much as decisions to reduce the cost of end of life care will certainly involve decisions about the health care to be provided.
I fully support the idea of better end of life counseling and encouraging people who are in pain to let go and avoid "'over-zealous' treatment". My Mother, a Registered Nurse, understood that without a "Do Not Resuscitate Order" someone could be breaking her ribs trying to get her heart going again, and in the end fail. On the one hand, I don't want my spouse to leave me one second before it is time. On the other hand, I hope that I recognize the time when it comes and can let her go into God's hands, and visa versa.
Regards — Cliff
♠ It is possible Grandpa Ray remarried after he divorced Grandma, but I have heard nothing of it. This would be, I suspect, a great grandchild or married to one.
♥ Here is the obit from The Boston Globe.