Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How Old is Too Old?

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately for some reason. I know this is a touchy subject for people and one that is nearly impossible to NOT get emotional about. I am trying to approach this from a "what would I want" and an objective standpoint. Tell me what you think.

As people age, their bodies fail. We all know this. As time goes on, medicine "improves" and our ability to fight ailments, sustain life and reverse aging increases. Is this really a good thing? That is the over all question of this blog entry.

Do we really do anyone any favors by sustaining their lives when they are completely invalid and have virtually none of the faculties they used to have, mental, physical, even emotional? At what point do we cross from keeping them alive and sustaining a quality life to prolonging the inevitable and potentially inflicting more pain (not just physical)? How big of a role does the health care industry itself play in this? In other words, they play into our emotions to sustain a miserable life in the name of being "humane" and make big bucks doing so.

Think about it, you are a fully functioning, completely independent 60 year old. You have a massive (fill in the blank with some terrible physical episode) that causes permanent damage and ensures you will never be able to be independent. Do you really want to be sustained? Fast forward, you are the same only 80 when you have this episode, do you want to be sustained? Do we sometimes sustain life for us rather than for the sick person? In other words, who is this life sustaining medicine really for? Sometimes I think it is more for the healthy ones who are unwilling to let go.

I am not condemning the behavior, I totally understand. But, is it really humane? I know the obvious argument is, well what if they could have gotten better? What if there was a miracle cure of some kind. I get that, really, I do. But, realistically, how long can someone hold out for this? How long before we are really just causing misery instead of holding on to hope?

I am undecided on this issue. I don't know the "right" or "moral" thing to do. I do know that it should be discussed. I also know that it makes people uncomfortable to think about because it reminds us of our mortality. I would never want someone to "quit" but at the same time, I don't want people to suffer if there is no chance of recovery. I am not advocating purposely ending someone's life (like a Dr. Kevorkian thing), but perhaps consciously NOT sustaining life.

Ok, your turn. Please be respectful. People carry a LOT of baggage in this area for an assortment of reasons.

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