Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Medical Controversy: The End of Life

North American's don't seem to handle death very well. Other cultures seem to have much more robust and sane traditions on how to handle death in the family. We seem to want to get grieving over with and as a society we don't allow much time for grief or time to cope. This cultural aversion to dealing with death isn't limited to the time after loved ones have died.

The fastest growing segment of our population is the elderly. Those people who've lived a long life and one healthy enough to make them prone to the diseases and problems of the old. We face having a significant portion of our population being elderly with all the trials and tribulations that entails. We're living long enough to fall prey to dementia and to live to the point where we need help every day to just live.

Which makes dealing with the taboos around death important. Choosing how we wish to live out our later years. Or even if we wish to live them out at all under certain conditions. As more people move into the final years of their lives they will start to contemplate how they wish to handle aging and death. Spouses, children, and grandchildren will watch people making difficult and very personal decisions about life and death.

A particularly poignant example that happens to touch on many of the issues we might face is What Broke My Father's Heart by Katy Butler which also carries the telling subtitle "A Pacemaker Wrecks a Family's Life".

Our culture is not yet at the point where we feel comfortable dealing with these issues. We're not used to discussions over do not resuscitate orders or what type of life is or isn't worth living. It will be awkward. It will be challenging. If we do it right maybe we won't look forward to our later years with dread and fear. Maybe they can be our golden years.

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