Thursday, September 24, 2009

Facing Death with some Dignity

The recent hullabaloo about "death panels," distracted us from an important conversation about how life ends. Too often older people (especially) die in a hospital, hooked up to tubes, incubated, and sedated. And this is all well paid for. But little provision is provided for supporting the kinds of care services that would cost much less but allow people to die at home, fully alert, but pain managed. I'm not talking about assisted suicide. I'm just talking about making it possible for people to die, like they used to die.

There is a piece in today's NY Times by Timothy Egan that focuses on the family of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. It notes how the system is unable/unwilling to pay for home care, but will hook you up on a machine. The article notes that the people have been having a conversation many of us are unwilling to have.

I realize that there is great fear of death and that death is not something we easily talk about. I also understand and believe that we should protect life -- but prolonging life on a machine is not protecting life. Not only is it costly, it is inhumane. But, until we can start having this conversation in our own homes, churches, communities the necessary steps won't be taken.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

It existes and is called "hospice"

Rial

Anonymous said...

Think about this.. as a Christian, our ultimate desire is to be with Jesus and worship with him. If we REALLY REALLY believe that.. we should never fear death, if almost celebrate in it. Sadly, our consumer society that is full of worries says we don't want to miss our best life now...

Chuck

Anonymous said...

"It existes and is called "hospice"

Rial"

My parents worked for Hospice for several years. It was OK, but they wen't allowed to evoke God. They ended up training as and was part of the first batch of Stephen Ministers and then trainers in their Catholic church. They used to have huge parties for the volenteers at their (our) home.
Sorry, had to plug them.

That's true Chuck. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me though. I don't fret about it much..and I'm getting old too!David Mc

Anonymous said...

all
Hospice now does invoke God. They have spitirual support (ministers) within their organization for the support of the client, their family, and the clints friends. In addition, once a month, the have a church memorial service for the persons who have died durning the past month. David, hospice has matured and evolved. - Rial

Anonymous said...

Personally I believe in quality of life. I've never understood the reasoning behind extending the life of someone when there will be no quality to that persons life, other than maybe the hospitals can collect more money as well as the drug companies. Sometimes it seems as though they use us all as experiments by trying new treatments to try to extend lives. Don't get me wrong, research is necessary, but we should all have the right/opportunity to decide if or not we choose to be the lab rat.

We don't get to choose the way we die...but we should always have the opportunity to choose if we want to go naturally (with pain relief) or if we choose to basically give our bodies over to science. I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of someone else choosing to prolong my life to the point where I really have no quality of life left. For now we have Living Wills and DNR orders...that is a start. I don't like the term "Death Panels"...since that isn't what it is...but there is nothing wrong with "End of Life Counseling", which can occur at any age.

And yes we have hospice, which is a wonderful thing. Hospice care should be covered by insurance and should be available to everyone. Seems to me it would be less expensive to cover hospice care than to be in the hospital and on machines or drug therapies, etc. So much of this seems to be common sense...maybe that's the problem.
Mrs. DavidMc

Anonymous said...

Who said "everything boils down to economics"? That's what we need to get around. Thanks for the update Rial. David Mc