The art of dying and the path to a better death was what Katy Butler, the author of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” door talked about at our last AHWGO forum. The mood in the room was passionate and buoyant despite the topic. The audience from social workers to designers and students in medicine were “all there”. Thanks to people like Katy Butler death and dying is becoming part of our conversation again.
Another medieval quote – ‘memento mori’ or ‘remember death’ or better, ‘remember that we are all going to die’ is surfacing again – for different reasons than in the Middle Ages. With incredible advances in medicine, hospitals as profit centers and medicare reimbursement system that pays for expensive cures but very little for care giving, more and more people witness an end of life of loved ones which satisfy more the system than put the human being in the center.
More and more people are recognizing that they do have the choice refuse medical treatment and that such choices influence their quality of life and death. Doctors who often see death on their watch as a failure and fix patients to the very end think very different when it comes to applying these treatments for themselves as a recent study by Johns Hopkins University showed. Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine acknowledged that “New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life”. The Institute of Medicine just published a report :“Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life”.
It seems that change is starting to happen. Maybe we can all dare to wish for a good death after an often long life.