http://nymag.com/news/features/parent-health-care-2012-5/ The personal, passionate and painful piece in New York Magazine by Michael Wolff needs to be read by everyone you know. The article is deeply moving, profoundly important and amazingly frank.
He writes about an experience that many of us have already had and which many more will have. It is about a son's love for his mother and the suffering that both endure as she fades from self-awareness.
It has to do with the prolongation of existence by means of medical technology in which quality of life becomes an after thought. It has to do with the enormous amount of financial resources now dedicated to keeping chronically ill and demented loved-ones "alive".
By promoting longevity and technologically inhibiting death, we have created a new biological status held by an ever-growing part of the nation, a no-exit state…..nearly as remote from life as death, but which, unlike death, requires vast service, indentured servitude really, and resources. It is quite clear that Wolff loves his mother. Some of his statements required him to be intensely open and honest with his feelings. Many individuals in his circumstance could not allow themselves to admit what he writes. Yet there is so much truth in this article that it needs to be openly discussed by everyone.
Unfortunately, every individual case is unique, yet similar to others. Decisions regarding end of life are never easy. Family members may disagree with each other. The patient may express their wishes for end of life care but then be out voted by those who are left to make medical decisions. Physicians often fail to play a supportive role in these difficult times. They may reveal their own personal inadequacies and lack of training in dealing with death and dying.
Is there ever a place for euthanasia here? Is life to be maintained by all means when there is no longer the quality of existence that defined who we were? These are questions without easy answers. When it came to the end of both my parents life I was adamant about not hospitalizing them and bringing in hospice as soon as possible. For the most part my family was in agreement. This doesn't always happen.
It is never too late to begin the difficult but necessary dialogue as a society which may provide the guidance we all so desperately need.