WHY THIS LIFE ? — It’s a Novel with Many Chapters

I hope what I’m about to write resonates with some of you.

 Most of us look at our own lives as some unexplained mystery.  Why do we experience what we do? Why do we encounter people who seem either loving or toxic to us? Why do some individuals seemed bound to us by proximity or kinship and seem to different from us?  Why is life just so impossible to figure out?

Perhaps we need to enlarge our perspective on life itself.  Let me offer a few thoughts and see if they even remotely make sense.

 Let us suppose, for the point of this exercise, that reincarnation is a real force in the universe.  If that is so then certain aspects of our life here begin to make some sense.  If our true nature is that of a spiritual being having a human experience, then we return to each lifetime with a mission, or at least a goal.  Overcoming adversity, embracing relationships, working on our faults, connecting to the planet, encouraging other beings to become their best selves, etc. etc.

 In the context of rebirth, each lifetime could be regarded as one chapter in our soul’s journey, the ultimate novel.  If our soul, the immortal self, requires multiple lifetimes to evolve, and that we forget the details of our last one, we find ourselves living this life confused and bewildered.  The analogy would hold because if we came upon a novel we have never read, picked one chapter in the middle and begin reading, we would most likely remain confused.  Who are these characters? Where did they come from? Why they interacting with each other? Where are they all going anyway?

 I suspect that our soul’s journey is like that.  If we had the benefit of a greater perspective, many of life’s mysteries and conundrums might make sense.  Since we don’t, this is all mere speculation.  But if reincarnation is real…..it might just make sense.

Stay tuned.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE BREAKTHROUGH–acknowledgement of its Influence

The highly regarded American Journal of Gastroenterology (aka Red Journal) published an article in November’s issue Volume 109 Number 11 pp1705-1711 regarding the use of CAM (complementary and alternative) treatments by US adults with gastrointestinal conditions from 2012 interview of over 13000 individuals. Nearly 42% utilizes CAM modalities.  

This is an impressive number. Even more impressive is the attention from one of the most widely read and respected traditional GI journals. Recognition of the appeal and effectiveness of some of these treatments.  

This is a welcome trend. We need the scientific establishment to be open to these approaches and to apply their analytic skills to their study.

JOAN RIVERS– Revisited

The latest revelations from the Joan Rivers tragedy seems to indict her treatment at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic.  The importance of these latest findings which appeared in the NYTimes and are based upon a “federal report” seems to point to a variety of avoidable errors and omissions.

The importance to me on a personal level  ( in addition to the Ms Rivers tragic death) is that I participate in an ambulatory surgicenter where upper endoscopies are performed on a daily basis.

I do hear from some of my patients who have expressed concern regarding their own fate. 

To summarize:  there seems to have been a failure to notice her deteriorating vital signs.  To me this points to a dereliction of duties by the anesthesiologist involved in the case.  Their job is to administer the drugs and closely monitor the patient’s vital signs.  That is their responsibility.  The anesthesiologists I work for are compulsively monitoring our patients on a continuous basis.

Again there was notation of the unauthorized ENT doctor Korovin who performed two laryngoscopies.  Even without performing a biopsy, this procedure is known to potentially result in spasm of the larynx and trachea, the result leading to bronchospasm and inability to oxygenate the patient.  This was clearly an inappropriate procedure for an ambulatory surgicenter and may have directly led to the anoxia (lack of oxygen) that resulted in “brain death”.

 The taking of “selfies” was an act of poor judgment and unprofessionalism but not directly contributory to Ms.River’s death.

So in summary, her death was most likely avoidable.  Poor medical judgment and perhaps an anesthesiologists lack of attention contributed to it. 

Obviously I am not responding to sworn testimony for this assessment, merely the NY Times article. But at least I can offer my own patients some assurance that their experience will be much different at our center.

BRITTANY MAYNARD DIDN’T DIE TODAY — But She Is Planning for It When She Chooses

It is highly unlikely that 29 year old Brittany Maynard would choose to become famous because of her choice to end her life prematurely.

The cover article in PEOPLE Magazine October 27 th edition outlines her struggle with a fatal brain cancer and her decision to choose physician assisted death on November 1. She has chosen to postpone that decision because she still has a reasonable quality of life. Apparently she has not decided to change her mind about her ultimate choice.

She is the poster person for a powerful movement to bring personal choice to the issue of death. It is about dying with whatever grace and dignity one can possess in the face of life’s inevitable end. It is about choosing to avoid the loss of control, degradation of the body and suffering for oneself and one’s loved-ones.

Of course controversy surrounds these issues. The role of physicians in the process is equally charged.  I for one believe we need to air this debate openly and bring it to the public forum.  I regard it as an area of bioethics, the law and spirituality intersect.

Oregon remains one of five states with Death-with-dignity laws on the books. Other states including New Jersey have begun the legislative process. Organizations such as Compassion & Choices are strong advocates for legislative action as well as personal support for patients and families battling these issues.

All of us need to think seriously about how we want to end our lives. Death being what it is, many will not have the opportunity to choose how and  under what circumstances it will occur.

The aftermath of Oregon’s experience in the 14 + years since the law was enacted should alleviate some of the fears of its opponents. Massive numbers of people did not move to the state in order to facilitate their own death.  The law is restrictive in many ways.  It insists that depression and psychological issues not be the diagnosis. A prognosis of six months or less must be documented by more than one physician. The patient must be physically and mentally capable of ingesting the lethal dose of barbiturates.  In practice nearly one third of patients who qualify for the law and have the drugs DO NOT use them.  But they feel empowered that they have the choice to do so. And fears that Hospice or palliative care options would be abandoned have proven false.  In fact their utilization has increased. Patients are more apt to make use of all available support because of the increased public awareness of end of life choices.

So let us appreciate the courage of Ms Maynard to share her public tragedy which will ultimately be for the benefit of us all.