We’re all going to die. Easy enough to think about in the abstract. But most of us think about it in terms of the Sun going Nova. Yeah, it’s going to happen, but it’s nothing I need to worry about. Until, that is, it is something to worry about.
Being Mortal talks about things like Nursing Homes and Hospice Care and DNRs. This is pretty depressing stuff, but Dr Atul Gawande says it really shouldn’t be. Circle of life and all of that. You are going to die, so it’d be best if you had some idea of how you want that handled.
In the Good Old Days, old people lived with young people. Old People were respected and their advice was sought out. Being Old was a badge of honor. But now, well, now being old means being in the way and a burden to those around you. And hence was born the Nursing Home, where we can warehouse these depressing used up people and keep them out of sight and out of mind.
The good doctor talks about Assisted Living as a brighter alternative to the nursing home. A place where old people can live in a home of their own, but where medical care is close by if needed. They are residents, not patients. But like all good ideas, it has been corrupted over the years and now in many places Assisted Living is just another name for Nursing Home. These places exist not to make the Old Folks happy or comfortable, but to suck up every last cent they have.
Hospice, on the hand, is painted with a much happier brush. Here is a program designed to make the patient as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. And to let them die when the time for their death arrives.
The problem with modern medicine is that all doctors are trained to fix problems. Only death is not a problem that can be fixed. It might be postponed for a year or two, but none of us want a year or two, we all want ten or twenty years. Hell, we all want to live forever.
Few of us are prepared for the end of life when it arrives. Being Mortal proposes that we should be ready to make a choice. Do we want to live a few more weeks in misery, or maybe live a few more days in relative peace? You’re going to die either way.
Being Mortal was an interesting book and well worth reading.