Janice Lynch Schuster’s blog on end-of-life (see blog at: http://www.jhartfound.org/blog) immediately brought to mind the quote by Sir Theodore Fox, a great orator and pioneer in the field of medicine. “Life is not really the most important thing in life.” While said almost half a century ago, the meaning behind his statement remains true. With today’s sophisticated technology we are able to prolong the lives of even the sickest patients, but we also need to focus on what it really means to live longer. As Lynch Schuster highlights in her piece, we as a society, need to become more aware of the reality of living and dying with chronic illnesses.
We face the challenge of establishing an open discourse on living well despite chronic, and serious illness. By sharing our experiences we can make it a more accessible topic. Only then can we understand the meaning of not just living longer, but living longer with debilitating conditions. Lynch Schuster is dead-on with her claim that we gloss over the most serious and often painful portions of growing old (see: www.susanjacoby.com), and that together we must address this gap in our conversations. And the time to start those conversations is now.
As David Brooks notes in his brilliant op-ed in the NY Times (see at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/opinion/15brooks.html?ref=davidbrooks), given the current fiscal crisis, whether we want to or not, decisions involving innovations that prolong the lives of desperately-ill people, by just a little, will have to be reevaluated. We should learn to consider the quality of life and not just the quantity.
1. Fox, Theodore. “Purposes of Medicine.” The Lancet 286.7417 (1965): 801-05.
Key words: end-of-life, chronic illness, health care finance, David Brooks, Janice Lynch Schuster, living well