Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Some active seniors want to end their lives before there is any disabling illness



Here’s an op-ed in the New York Times, Aug. 31, by Paula Span, “A Debate over ‘Rational Suicide’”, link.

My take is that when I was growing up, most seniors didn’t live very long when they developed serious illnesses because not much could be done.  People did not have the expectation of a long period of disability at the end of life, so no one had to think about it this way.  

I had a piano teacher who went into the hospital in May 1958 with colon cancer, apparently.  She died in two weeks.  I do recall that everyone dreaded colostomy and no one lived very long with one.

Now, it’s pretty important to make your wishes known.  The trouble is that malpractice fears and Medicare policies often force physicians to look for developing asymptomatic disease and to treat them. 

But, screening for diseases (like colonoscopies) may really make sense when started early enough in middle age.  But I doubt that aggressive treatment later in life can make much sense.
  
My own father died of aggressive prostate cancer just before his 83rd birthday (New Years Day, 1986).  But he was ill only for the last four weeks of his life. Until then, he did what he wanted.  He turned down what the most aggressive treatment would have been (essentially castration and feminization) as violating his own sense of sanctity.

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