Life and Death and Money

The true wisdom, I think, is the understanding of the beginning and the end and the knowing when the time comes to go. And to go with dignity. And even as the primal instinct of self preservation kicks in, I hope that wisdom will prevail and I will be able to make the right decision.

So now what?
Why am I here?

Why are we here?  What is the purpose of our lives?  Is it just to stay alive?  Why?  Is it just self preservation?

I noticed that for some older people life is 24/7 an effort to stay alive.   Visits to doctors.  Medications.  Daily assessments – where does it hurt today?  The search for a “miracle” diet.  Tests.  New or different medication.
And the same routine again.
I am not being judgmental here.  We are all trying to find answers.  I personally would not want this type of existence.  There has got to be some purpose in life…some satisfaction. 
One more point.  Because most of one’s money is spend on people in last 2 years of their lives, there are not enough resources to help the rest – the younger part of the country.  And that lack of health care affects people’s health so by the time they get old, Medicare and Medicaid have to pick up the tab.  This is the vicious circle that is bankrupting our country.
So what do we do?  Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly, spends nearly 30 percent of its budget on beneficiaries in their final year of life.  Slightly more than half of Medicare dollars are spent on patients who die within two months.  40 percent of Medicare dollars covers care for people in the last month.
The end and new beginning.
A new one will grow.

“No one wants to die.  Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.  And yet death is the destination we all share.  No one has ever escaped it.  And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.  It is Life’s change agent.  It clears out the old to make way for the new.  Right now the new is you, but someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become old and be cleared away.  Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” – Steve Jobs

“Earlier this year, a pair of influential bioethicists argued in an essay in “The New Republic” that the amount of money the country spends on Medicare is unsustainable.  With senior citizens the fastest-growing age group in the country, they say, the only way to control the ballooning costs is to try to bring the entire population up to a life expectancy of 80 and stop using most expensive technologies and medicines to extend life beyond that, even if some people will die.” Chicago Tribune Health

Quality of life?
Ethical question

“If you want to save all lives, you’re in trouble,” said Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in New York, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, in an interview.  “And if you want to save all lives at any cost, you’re really in trouble.”

Medicare was signed into law in 1965, a time when life expectancy was 67 for men and 73 for women, and half of people 65 and older had no health insurance.  In 2007, life expectancy had grown to 75 for men and 80 for women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Doctors can keep you alive until you are 105, but that may not be a particularly good aim of the health care system,” Callahan said.  Senior citizens should receive good basic health care, but the main resources should go to children and the adult population”, he believes.

Is there a sensible solution?

There is no short term solution other than to educate the aging parents and their adult kids on how to make the sensible decision on when is it time to go. In the meantime we need to learn how to maintain a healthy life style so we can stay healthy and die gracefully.

“We get selfish families, and it’s often easier for doctors to pull out prescription pads.   Doctors need more often to say no, to say (if a patient is dying): ‘We will give you palliative care, but not give you chemotherapy.  We will not give you new expensive drugs because it will not make you better.'”

“More importantly, some ignore another reality for doctors who must make these difficult decisions:  the nearly unlimited liability exposure if the family members disagree with all members of the health care team, including hospital ethics panels.

Once again, because of special interest resistance to malpractice reform, centralized government control will become the default option.

And maybe, just maybe, we need to rethink our stand on direct-to-consumer advertising of expensive medications to the populace on the Nightly News.


Published: July 15, 2009

 We were all born and we will all die.  It is the way of nature to assure the continuation and progress of the species.  And death is just as natural as birth and life and just as necessary for the success of species.  As we age we think about life and death and our quality of life as we near the end.  And it is scary.  After all this is a “once in a lifetime” experience.  

We all like to have healthy and happy lives.

Symbiosis of birth and death
Two sides of One.

The true wisdom, I think, is the understanding of the beginning and the end and the knowing when the time comes to go.  And to go with dignity.  And even as the primal instinct of self preservation kicks in, I hope that wisdom will prevail and I will be able to make the right decision.

One of the reasons I am writing on this subject is the lack of understanding of life and death and the medical establishment’s insistence on keeping terminally ill people alive artificially at any cost causing suffering to patients and their families and, due to limited resources, denying life-saving treatment to those who could be saved.  It is a complicated issue and we all should learn the wisdom of living and dying.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”. ~ Norman Cousins

So enjoy life and learn how to stay healthy naturally.