Thursday, October 31, 2013

Common Sense has to win sometime!

We saw the doctor today, basically to have prescriptions refilled. We always book our appointments together, and the clinic we attend is specifically for people who have complex medical issues, which we both have. So instead of the standard 10 minute run through the office we each get a full 30 minutes with the doctor.

As usual our BPs were in the excellent category, both within two or three points of 120/80, she ran through some lab work Tony had done a month ago, which was fine, and we worked out what needed filling.

I remarked that we are in great shape for the shape we're in, while both of us have genetic muscle disorders which cause a slow and progressive loss of strength and stamina, we live with constant fatigue and pain, and my joints are very unstable, we have none of the diseases many people in our age group (late 60s-mid 70s) have. No heart problems, no emphysema, no rheumatoid arthritis or history of cancer. We are, aside from the dratted muscle problems, healthy. Knock wood.

She remarked on how even healthy people, can go from health to profound disability in a moment's time from a heart attack or stroke, and that we are generally deluded about how "strong" our bodies are.

But the main topic of conversation was how unprepared boomers, and even 80 and 90 year-olds are for death. We have as a culture a delusion that we are going to live forever, and even 95-year-olds whose quality of life is absolutely terrible fight for painful and debilitating treatments out of the fear of death.

I think there are two issues, no one wants to die. It's a difficult process for most, painful and exhausting. The body does not give up its grip on life easily.

But death itself is different. Whether you believe you return to that deep and dreamless sleep that you existed in before birth or that you wake up in a heavenly paradise Christians and Muslims teach, you'd think believers would not fear moving to this better, higher plain of existence once their earthly bodies have become fraught with so pain and extreme frailty as to be a constant burden.

But our doctor said emphatically that this is not so, saying the most fearful of dying are the Chinese. Ah, this one I understand. Most Asian religions believe in reincarnation, so if you have lived a life of selfishness or spitefulness you may very well fear your next life will be spent as a goat or a dung beetle.

Tony and I continued this conversation at home. We have medical directives on file with our doctor. Should we suffer an accident, heart attack or stroke severe enough to reduce our mental or physical capacities to the point where we would be totally dependent once recovered, we have directed that no extraordinary measures be used to preserve our lives.

This is not to say that the life of a disabled person is without value, but to admit that technology should be used to restore people to health, not condemn them to an endless cycle of pain and complete dependence when they are incapable of communicating their needs to their loved ones.

And we are very strongly on the side of allowing people with terminal illness to have access to medical assistance to end their lives in peace and dignity. Those who say only God should choose the time of death can join the ranks of the clergymen who said easing the agony of women (some of them dying) in childbirth with anesthesia "robbed God of their screams". Back to the 1800s wi' the lot of you.

Common sense has to win sometime. Now would be a good time. 

1 comment:

Linda P. said...

Great article, and I agree with your assessments. I am living with a disease that has in the past and may again bring disability, but what I fear more is mental and physical incapacitation from a stroke or other event that turns me into a burden for other family members. I fear that far more than I fear death, so I'm doing all I can to prevent that from happening while being realistic about the aging process. I agree with the whole array of choices people should have as they face certain death or overwhelming disabilities, too.