rational decisions on dying

ImagesSteve Ratner wrote an article in the Op-Ed section of the NYTimes called Beyond Obamacare.  He writes about not only the high costs of healthcare in this country but also about the tough decisions we need to make to get the costs down.  This is only one issue where big decisions are going to have to be made in order to get our country back on budget and to fiscally responsible place. 

What resonated with me in the article is this:  No one wants to lose an aging parent. And with price out of the
equation, it’s natural for patients and their families to try every
treatment, regardless of expense or efficacy. But that imposes an
enormous societal cost that few other nations have been willing to bear.
  I have written about this topic before after losing my Mom quickly to cancer almost two years ago.  

We were having a conversation about this exact topic on Friday night.  Our friend is a surgeon and he is also an incredibly smart pragmatic individual.  Most people will do anything to keep their aging parent or Grandparent alive.  They will do whatever it takes even if that means surgery at 85 years old.  The risks are high and the costs to the medicare system are enormous.  As our friend says, the decisions we made are not the norm and he applauds us for doing so. 

Our Mom had surgery to find out what was happening inside her brain.  Once we knew the answer, our decision making changed.  There was absolutely nothing we could have done to bring her back to the independent, crossword-loving, book reader, theater goer, lover of the arts, travel lover, witty, amazing chef and political junkie that she was.  It was not in the cards.  She had told us many times over the years, even when she first got sick, if I can't be who I am, I do not want to be. 

I listened to her choices and although difficult, I thought with my head and in reality it was my heart too.  We let her go.  We didn't make her suffer through a bunch of attempts to just keep her alive.  I saw the medical bills that we never paid for and they were extraordinary.  Probably more than she ever spent her whole life on medical treatment.  It was paid for by medicare.  As a die-hard liberal, my Mom would have been appalled to see those bills.  She would have wanted them to figure out what was wrong before even having the first surgery but supposedly they couldn't.

In the end it was quick but I know in my heart we made the right decisions.  Maybe because it happened so fast that the mourning has been strange.  I sort of feel like she is on an extended vacation.  As my sister says, I hope she is having a nice time.