Afraid to die

October 19, 2009
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Dr. Mercy Obeime, a doctor and the medical director of St. Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park, made an interesting observation during a recent IBJ Power Breakfast on health care.

Obeime, who was on a panel of health care experts at the breakfast, noted how people have come to expect life-sustaining miracles even when a patient is old and near death. Often, she said, relatives insist, “Well, we’re not ready for this …  they can’t die, they can’t die.”

Those miracles are expensive, of course, and her comments came as the panel discussed how to avoid building too much capacity into the health care system. You can find her remarks and the thoughts of others on the panel here.

Death is a part of life. Does fear of death cause Americans to expect too much from our medical system when it comes to prolonging the lives of the old and infirm?

  • Life becomes more precious the older we get
    Just a thought...

    If people are going to consider spending tens of thousands of dollars on risky treatment that might allow them to live a few more months or years at the most, maybe they should start thinking more about where they are going to spend their eternity. Isn't that what we should really do to treat our loved ones well? Why cling to the illusion that another operation will add a few more years?

    After all, last time I checked, mankind never discovered the secret of immortality.
    • Freedom to Choose
      Fear of death is a natural part of life as well. Many people may indeed expect impossible feats from today's medicine, but what is standard life saving practice today, would have been considered a "miracle" just 5 or 6 years ago. It is pretty audacious to start to think of making life or death medical choices for others. When your mother is sick or injured... or your child....and the new government imposed health plan determines that the chances of them having the "quality of life" that THEY determine as standard, is unlikely.... then what? The doctor writes a script for pain killers to make people "comfortable" as they pass? Do we really want others determining whether we choose to not give up on our ailing family members? For at least right now, this still is a supposedly FREE country for which we each have the right to make decisions for ourselves. Now there may be times when there truly is nothing more that can be done, but what choices are made at that point are up to the family ...not an insurance company or especially our government. Something we all should consider before it is too late to be changed...
      • Freedom to choose
        In response to "disapproving citizen," yes, the choice to continue care for an ailing person does belong to the relatives; however, the cost to society (as well as the personal cost to the family) should also be part of that choice, and the family needs to be realistic. Should someone (be it the family, an insurance company, etc.) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "miracle" that will add less than a year of life to a severely ill elderly person, simply because the family isn't ready to let Grandpa go? What about Grandpa's wishes? I'm 100% against insurance companies making the decision for purely profit reasons, but we all have a duty to think about the sustainability of the overall health care system when considering our options.

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