The Chaos of Medicine: Life or Death

Monday, January 16, 2012

Life or Death

Actually, life, death and everything in between. It is one of hard things when dealing with vulnerable people. Sometimes people are unmistakenly alive in every aspect. They are independent and lucid and completely able to do what we consider to be normal. Then there are deaths.

Deaths are, without exeption, very tragic. A friend's mother, still far too young, dying after a car accident, a little boy dying of cancer, but also the woman with progressed Parkison's who can't move, can't speak, can't think, can't understand. Yes, it might be better for her and for her increasingly worried family. But that does not make any death OK.

But is death really the worst thing imaginable? There are a lot of gradations between life and death. In a lot of circumstances, death is obviously worse. I cannot imagine a world where a good quality of life is exeptional. I know there are times and places where it is a luxury and I am very thankful to have such an easy-going life. But even in my limited world, certain ethical questions are raised. Is a poor quality of life better than death? Who gets to make decisions like that?

Personally, I draw the line at being sane. I would be able to live with physical handicaps, but dementia could very realisticly drive me crazy. The thought alone of losing my memory and the safety of reasoning... I don't think I would want to live like that. But when do you decide to die? When you are still lucid, you are not yet at the point where you think life is pointless. Then, when the dementia has progressed, nothing you say makes sense as you lose the skills to think long-term. This is probably why so many people are in this debilitated state of confusion. Or would they be OK with their bodies deteriorating until death?

I don't know how geriatricians deal with this. I'm not even sure whether I could be one. How can you go against your moral standards every day? Life can be so mean.

1 comment:

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