In this weekend’s WSJ Review section (Feb 9-10, 2019; pp C1-C2), author Katy Butler notes the importance of making plans well ahead of time to make sure our passing does not become an undesired ordeal. She points out the frightening reality that “Seven in 10 Americans hope to die at home, but half die in nursing homes and hospitals.” She warns her reader that “Advanced medicine is replete with treatments (ventilators, dialysis, defibrillators, feeding tubes…) that postpone death and prolong misery without restoring health.”
And that may well be the rub. When an individual is suffering from a terminal, incurable and painful disease, there is essentially no hope of restoring health, even though life may be perpetuated. And with modern technology, it is possible to keep failing organs working artificially almost infinitely… but to what avail? The patient knows he/she will never be restored to a general state of well-being able to enjoy life as he/she once did. Instead, every breathing moment will be a miracle of modern science, totally detached from the essence of what a well lived life is all about. This is where the warnings of Katy Butler are so instructive.
In the absence of advance planning, an individual may well find his/her last days, if not weeks and months, tortuous and devoid of how he/she wants to live the end. Plan ahead, Ms Butler warns. And we all would be wise to take heed
Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.