Doctors are trained to help people extend life as long as possible, but the question some people are now raising is, “What kind of life are they prolonging?” More questions need to be asked about whether this is really what all people want. And we need a greater emphasis on palliative care to mitigate pain and other symptoms.
“How to Have a Better Death” is a topical and provocative article recently published in The Economist. It is a conversation that Atul Gawande and others have brought to light.
According to the article, “Polls, including one carried out in four large countries by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an American think-tank, and The Economist, find that most people in good health hope that, when the time comes, they will die at home. And few, when asked about their hopes for their final days, say that their priority is to live as long as possible. Rather, they want to die free from pain, at peace, and surrounded by loved ones for whom they are not a burden.”
I saw this with my own dad who had a true zest for life, but inexorably deteriorated as Parkinson’s consumed him. I know that those final months were not the way he would have wanted his life to end -- and neither would I.