Monday, August 17, 2009

At Last!

An oped piece by Richard Dooling, author of the novel Critical Care, reminds us of all the money spent on "people who will never leave the hospital." People, in other words, who are very old and mostly unconscious, who nevertheless receive intensive, incredibly expensive care--one more procedure, one more surgery, one more "life-saving" device. And if that were eliminated (or at least curbed) there would be more than enough money to pay for children's health care (about 8 million children don't have it). Can we ever agree to some kind of health-care "rationing" for old people? I hope so, but I think what this guy leaves out is the need to change attitudes. A whole different way of looking at old age is necessary--an end to this desperate attempt to hold on to "life" at any cost, even if it's a "you call this living?" kind of life.

People I know pay at least lip service to the idea that they don't want to live forever at any cost, that they don't want their doctors to "strive officiously to keep [them] alive." But they do seem awfully involved with health services. I think I've heard of one other person who refused Lipitor, for instance, as I did. Oh how I loved the quote in Dooling's piece from "Sir William Osler, widely revered as the father of modern medicine." who said, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.” Probably I'm being unfair because I've been so lucky and so healthy. We'll see sometime, I'm sure, whether I actually refuse medicine, etc. that I think is excessive when I'm sick.

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