Modern medicine: Prolonging life or prolonging death?

Carly Yamrus, Opinion Editor

Nobody talks about death. We close out eyes to it; change the subject. Ignore and deny. Don’t talk about it, don’t write about it.  Maybe if we don’t think about it wont happen to us.

Because we don’t acknowledge death, we are often faced with difficult decisions when the time does come. Many questions suddenly yet not so suddenly arise with the beginning of the end. Should we utilize advanced medical procedures and drugs to put up a fight or should we acknowledge our inevitable fate? In what circumstances should we fight? If we choose not to fight, does that mean we giving up? Symbolic terms such as “winning” and “losing” are almost always used when talking about illness and dying.

Many people choose the fight no matter the circumstances, because nobody wants to lose.

As humans we have the right to life. With that right, we go to extreme measures to defend it at all costs. And the cost is very, very high. The amount of money spent on terminal patients is astounding. Your bill when you die can be between thousands and several hundred thousand of dollars if you spend your last days in a hospital or hospice. According to a CBSnews 60-Minutes documentary, “The Cost of Dying,” Medicare spent over 50 billion dollars on people with degenerative diseases, chronic illnesses, Stage-4 Cancer and other fatal conditions.

There are certain circumstances in which fighting to live is most definitely an option. There are also certain circumstances in which continuing the fight is comparable to torture.  Are we prolonging life or prolonging death?

Patients with terminal illnesses succumb to toxic treatments that devastate their bodies. Desperate last minute treatments, transfusions, and other invasive procedures are costly and usually produce an array of ruinous side effects that debilitate the patient further.

With the health care we have today we have painted an unrealistic picture of what goes on in the hospital. We look to healthcare to fix us. Surely the technology and medicine we have developed will save us from ourselves. At an early age, we learned that doctors make us better. Go to school and become a doctor so that you can help sick people be well again. The question of “How long do I have to live?” becomes “For how long will I try to stay alive?”

Accepting death as part of life does not mean you gave up, it means you gave in and recognized it as a natural part of life. You can’t choose when your time has come or how it will happen, but you can sometimes choose a better way out. There is only so much that can be done to help sustain life in the final months or days. After the procedures become unreasonable, maybe the best thing to do is to just be comfortable. Let loved ones express their love and support instead of having them helplessly watch and do nothing.

I don’t think dying is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Dying without dignity is.