DailyDirt: Logan's Run For Octogenarians, Tricenarians… Or Pick An Age?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

A lot of research goes towards medicines that prolong life in various ways. It’s not too hard to agree on some of those efforts, such as trying to find a cure for Ebola or other horrible diseases. But arguably, the quality of life should be considered when drastic medical procedures are about to be performed on patients with terminal illnesses. Not too many people want to be kept alive with machines without regard to the amount of pain and suffering that may accompany such a state. Here are just a few links about knowing when death will arrive.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Logan's Run For Octogenarians, Tricenarians… Or Pick An Age?”

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Paraquat (profile) says:


To me, the quality of life is far more important than the length of time I get to live. Unfortunately, not taking antibiotics, not taking anti-cancer drugs, etc – as a form of suicide, it sucks. The big problem is not death, it’s pain. Nobody wants to suffer a horrible, slow death, which is what you can expect if you die from cancer and numerous other diseases.

Some people get lucky and die from a heart attack in their sleep. But you can’t count on that.

Few (if any) countries in the world make it easy or even legal to commit suicide. The drugs that would make it possible are hard to obtain, and becoming harder. It used to be that people would off themselves with sleeping pills. Back in the old days, the drug of choice was barbiturates (ie Marilyn Monroe). These are no longer prescribed, and that is intentional. The type of sleeping pills now prescribed are either benzodiazepines (ie Valium) or Z-drugs (ie Ambien). These drugs are designed so that you need a huge amount (like several hundred) for a fatal overdose, and even if you manage to swallow so many, there is a good chance you’ll throw them up, meaning you’ll wake up the next day with a massive hangover, but not dead.

What is a cancer victim to do? In the USA, it’s way easier to obtain guns than drugs. And so guns have become the main vehicle of deliverance in America. That is extremely messy, to say the least. There are, of course, botched attempts, where the patient only succeeds in causing severe wounds and thus suffers even more pain.

As a society, we don’t seem ready to accept that assisted suicide is humane. Dr Jack Kevorkian devoted his life to trying to assist terminally ill cancer patients commit suicide, and it landed him in jail. There is a good movie about him:

“You Don’t Know Jack”

Anon says:

Re: suicide

“When I go, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather; not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.”

There are two aspects – if I’m a drooling vegetable, what difference does it make when and how I die – by all means put me out of my misery. If I can simply look forward to a few months of constant pain and then certain death, after a certain time I may also want to die.

The problem is the in-between – what if I’m of sound mind but lacking bodily functions? Do I want to live on unable to move? blind and/or deaf and/or unable to move? Do I want to spend 5 or 10 years in a hospital bed unable to do anything but watch whatever channel is on the TV?

MY instinct is to say “no”, but as the old National Lampoon joke goes, to faux-quote Sen. Edward Kennedy, “I’ll drive off that bridge when I come to it.”

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Dr. Emanuel might not be such a rare bird.

His view is more prevalent that you’d think, Mike.

Periyakoil et al – Do Unto Others: Doctors’ Personal End-of-Life Resuscitation Preferences and Their Attitudes toward Advance Directives

FTL: “Data show that there is accelerating fragmentation of care of seriously ill Americans at the end-of-life. Dying patients continue to be hospitalized and subjected to ineffective therapies that erode their quality of life and their personal dignity. Doctors’ attitudes have hardly changed in the past 23 years despite the passage of the PSDA. Our data show that doctors they have a striking personal preference to forego high-intensity care for themselves at the end-of-life and prefer to die gently and naturally. This study raises questions about why doctors provide care, to their patients, which is very different from what they choose for themselves and also what seriously ill patients want.”

How Doctors Die by Ken Murray, MD

Talk to people who work with terminal and geriatric patients. What’s important, if you ask me, is how well you lived, not how long you lived.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Dr. Emanuel might not be such a rare bird.

“Talk to people who work with terminal and geriatric patients.”

This. The reason for my sentiments of this subject (in my comment “I agree with Dr. Emanuel” is because of numerous discussion with my wife, who was a hospice care nurse for years. From her experiences — and her opinion is similar to the majority of her coworkers, including doctors — she noticed that the last few years of declining health are often, quite literally, a living hell that only death can bring an end to. She wouldn’t wish it on her worst enemy.

On a similar subject, she also said that she carries a “do not resuscitate” card, as do most of the doctors she works with. After talks about that, I carry one as well.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

I agree with Dr. Emanuel

On average, 75 seems like about the right age. The odds of having a good quality of life do drop off considerably after that. Men in my family tend to live a long time (most of them hit 100) and be in good health up until the last. Once I reach 75, if I stay in reasonable health, I will enjoy every year that I can. If, however, my health declines, then I am in Dr. Emanuel’s camp: I don’t want anything designed purely to make me live longer. Instead, I want things that will make the time I have left as good as possible.

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