Did anyone catch "60 Minutes" Sunday night, Nov. 22? The report looked into how the last two months of terminally ill people's lives will someday "bankrupt" America, because hospitals run so many expensive, unnecessary tests and procedures with little chance of patient recovery.
Two of the medical experts consulted suggested it's a uniquely American fear of death that fuels this. One actually said people going through an elderly loved one's final days should just "get over it" and realize death is an unavoidable consequence of LIVING. That's a cold, heartless assessment, but sometimes it takes that to make a rational decision about the unavoidable.....like seeing a beloved elderly relative vegetating with no chance of recovery.
It was suggested that there's a worse thing than death...and it's "dying badly". That was defined as having your life artificially extended for the sole purpose of avoiding the inevitable...and at an average Medicare expense of $10,000 per day per patient, and continued emotional turmoil for those living in denial.
One Medicare case paid $45,000 for a chemotherapy treatment that was expected to keep the person alive less than two months. Another was a surgically inserted heart pacemaker that cost $50,000...for a 93-year-old dying of cancer.
As the boomers --- always the largest chunk of the population --- continue to age and to need more and more health care, it will be our adult children and their children who assume the tax burden of our aging and frailty, as we personally endure the effects of old age.
Nobody ever wants to get into a situation of "pulling the plug on Granny", as political pundits put it regarding health care legislation, but it would be healthy for us all to think about, as the "60 Minutes" report suggests, the one thing in life that we'll never avoid, and how we can take steps to assure it won't be as traumatic as it is when we deny its cold reality.
David J. Fone email@example.com