I’ve linked to a couple of Seth Godin posts here on this blog. And he recently had a post that included the following statement:
“If you’ve ever shared a post of mine, I hope you’ll share this one. If every person who reads this sits down with her family and talks this through (and then tells a few friends), we’ll make a magnificent dent in the cultural expectation of what happens last.”
So, here’s the post: How do you want to die?
Basically, he’s urging everyone to put a health care proxy in place and to think about what level of medical care you would want before the time comes that you need it.
I’m sharing it because he asked, but also because I agree with him that it’s something important to think about.
If you let it happen, the medical system (at least in America) will do everything in its power to keep you alive. Quality of life is not the concern. It’s all about keeping you breathing for another day (even if they have to put a tube down your throat and have a machine do it for you).
Some people want that. Some people want every single moment they can wring out of this life.
Others, maybe not so much.
The last time my dad was in the hospital they did everything they could to get his blood pressure back up so they could dialyze him. This included putting him on some sort of medicine that restricted blood flow to non-essential organs. Net result? If he had made it through (which he thankfully did not given the possible outcome), he would’ve needed a new liver.
So, great. We kept you alive so that you could have a major surgery that you probably won’t qualify for given your other health issues. Bravo. You now get to die over a period of months not days.
But sometimes you want to try every single thing you can to keep going. My father also had a failed kidney transplant surgery that landed him in ICU for three months and took part of his lung. He had two young kids and a hell of a lot more to live for at that time, so in that circumstance, he wanted them to do everything they could to keep him alive.
They did and he lived another dozen years.
It’s a personal decision. But it’s one worth making. Actively, not passively.
(And, as you might imagine given my father’s illness, I’m also a strong proponent for organ donation. Again, a personal choice. But for me, once I die my body is just so much flesh and I’d rather see that flesh used to improve someone else’s life than buried under ground or burned to ash.)
(A further note: be careful who you choose to be your healthcare proxy. Make sure they understand and will support your wishes.)