Reintroducing the Art of Healing and the Art of Dying (Letting Go)

Reintroducing the Art of Healing and the Art of Dying (Letting Go)

In today’s world, medical technology has developed to such an extent that it can greatly intervene and save many lives. Got into an accident? ‘We’ll save you! We have the medicine and the machines to make sure you are still breathing!’ Born premature and in poor health? ‘We can revive and make sure the baby lives!’ Have a terminal illness? ‘Don’t lose hope – here are all your options and we can do this treatment and that treatment…’ Getting ‘old’? ‘There are treatments that we can provide in order to prolong your life!’

Dying is an inevitability; but the definition of the term ‘dying’ has become muddled. Are you dying when you have a terminal illness? Should you be left to die if you got into an accident, and are very severely injured? Would you be dying without medical intervention, or would you be ‘actually’ dying when all medical intervention and care fails?

The case of Sara Monopoli in Atul Gawande’s argues the reintroduction of what doctors should pertain to do: ‘heal’. When a treatment is only going to leave a patient more fatigued, tired and infested with so many side effects – are the doctors really acting in the interest of the patient? Are the doctors really abiding to healing and easing the patient’s pain?
Too many people in the world today overestimate the power of medical technology – yes it can save lives when done right; but not every medical case is like the other and a doctor is not God.
Sara was a ‘fighter’, but ultimately did she get to die in the place, or the way she had wanted to? Sara and her family placed and invested all their hopes in the success of her treatment, but can we possibly think Sara had enough time with to spend with her family, as the treatments took so much of her time? Can we possibly think Sara died happy and content?

Sara’s case is not the first case that has ended unhappily even after extensive medical interference. What should doctors and the medicine industry really be doing when it can no longer save a person’s life?
Hospice care is shining star in medicine. Hospice refocuses on providing the ‘quality’ of life to patients – it discusses what can be done to reduce pain and still allow patients to be able to go around do daily activities of life and at the same time, be able to spend time with family and loved ones.
Doctors, should be able to sit down with families and patients and discuss the treatments available, and also the treatments side-effects etc. Doctors should request patients to discuss what they’d prefer, instead of ‘recommending’ the patient on the ‘best discourse to follow’. Ultimately doctors should stop overestimating the success of alleged treatments and miraculous patients, and be realistic with themselves and with the patients and the patient’s family.

‘What’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken.’ This paradoxical statement attempts to explain that doctors and loved ones should know when to stop forcing treatments on a patient when it is causing more deterioration and strain on the patient then showing positive outcomes. When nothing else can be done to save one’s life, doctors should just focus on helping patient’s cope with their pain and help ease the pain too.

As a society too, people have to start thinking: are you really living when you are hooked up onto multiple medical instruments and medicine? If that is no way to live, then is that a proper way to die?

Reminder: Living the moments is more essential. Quality of life over the quantity is more essential.

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4 thoughts on “Reintroducing the Art of Healing and the Art of Dying (Letting Go)

  1. I loved your point about the definition of death being “muddle”, I agree that today’s idea of death is most likey when medical resources have reach their potential. I’ve never heard Hospice being referred to as the shining star in medicine but after personally recently going through the Hospice process, I agree with that reference. It has helped so many patients and their families to come together at the last moment of someone’s life. All of your ideas were very accurate, and I really enjoyed the quotes you used in the end of your response, they show exactly what most patients and doctors should consider.

  2. I agree completely that as a society we have developed to fear and fight death with anything we can. As you said in the first paragraph, modern medicine is completely focused on doing whatever it can to drag out our lives to the last possible moment. But if we’re draining the quality of the moments we have here and now just for the sake of having more moments later, are you really living at all? You’re right, life is about living the moment. Quality over quantity. Medicine should teach us this when we reach the point beyond saving. It should improve the quality of here and now, regardless of how much longer that may be. Very good and insightful post. 🙂

  3. I love the picture you’ve chosen for the prompt; it’s very fitting.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your statement about quality over quantity. Too often we forget that hanging on to our loved ones can be more harmful than letting go. It’s important to find a balance between the two but when possible one should err towards the quality of life someone has.

  4. The paradox you referenced, ‘what’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken.’, really captures the views of many on how medicine and the medical industry is. We should all appreciate the amazing pharmaceuticals that have been developed, because without these prescriptions many people would succumb to whatever ails them; a majority of the time, its death. Nevertheless, we will all come to a point in which we will meet our end, so why pursue a path that leads to suffering with little chance of the medicine bettering your health? Why not just take your chances and live up every last moment? These are some of the questions that I would’ve been asking myself if I was in Sara’s position and these are the type of questions that I’d loved to have rationalized out with me before my death. For Sara it must have been choosing to take that medicine to live longer, so that she could be in the life of her first born child and experience, for a short period, what being a mother was like.

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