David Brooks over at the New York Times wrote an interesting opinion piece on the current budget crisis and how it relates to our fear of death and our faith in science and medical technology to delay death. Here’s a few provocative snippets:
This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death — our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy to extend life for a few more sickly months. … As Daniel Callahan and Sherwin B. Nuland point out in an essay in The New Republic called The Quagmire, our health care spending and innovation are not leading us toward a limitless extension of a good life. … “We have arrived at a moment,” Callahan and Nuland conclude, “where we are making little headway in defeating various kinds of diseases. Instead, our main achievements today consist of devising ways to marginally extend the lives of the very sick.”
As the parent of a seriously ill child, I agree with everything he’s saying, and yet I have no idea how we parse out quality of life and making the decision to let go (and let hospice). It’s my understanding that Americans wait too long to enter (or enter their loved ones) into hospice care. It seems that we do a great job at fighting disease (even if we’re bankrupting ourselves in the process), but a pretty lousy job at welcoming the dying process.
What would it look like if we made our healthcare decisions (both individually and as a society) based on something other than the fear of death?
You can read Brooks’ article here: Death and Budgets