- “It’s certainly possible that I could have a terrible car accident and become so badly brain damaged that I don’t care about the burden that I’m placing on other people, but I don’t want that brain-damaged self to be the decision maker. I want the person that I am now making those legal decisions.”
- “We don’t aggressively pursue things that help people have a better quality of life in their last five years. What we do aggressively pursue are extremely profitable, money-making interventions that have the potential of creating enormous suffering at the end of life.”
- “I want to break the taboo against questioning this drive for maximum longevity no matter what the cost—to the family member, the society, the person in their 90s who’s not necessarily delighted to live another year.”
These quotes come from a recent interview with writer Katy Butler, whose recent book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, explores how technology continues to keep us alive in the face of a “good death.” Many of these themes have been part of conversations that I’ve had with a number of friends recently, and myself quite often, as I’ve lost a number of close friends at points in their lives when no one was ready to make decisions for them and no plans had been laid.
Although I don’t have parents that are particularly old (both are in their 50’s), we have already had conversations about what “end of life” care should look like in different situations. It isn’t an easy conversation to have because few people are willing to talk about death openly, but that is something that needs to change. I am interested to read Butler’s book, though I feel that many people, and American’s in particular, do a pretty poor job of understanding and making intentional decisions towards a better quality of life on a regular basis. I understand that some people don’t have the knowledge or the means, or are prevented from doing so by situational constraints, but the fact that we simply try to “save” ourselves at the end of life by having doctors do all they can seems so backwards, and sadly very indicative of how many people live normally.
We don’t need miracle drugs; we need to start a conversation about what living well looks like on a daily basis, what “preventative” care is actually meant to prevent, and how to embrace transitioning from one stage of life to the next.