In history, death has typically been quick. Now, thanks to medical advances, the process of death is often prolonged. In certain circumstances, modern medicine is able to ward off the disease that is threatening life, and even improve the quality of someone’s last days on Earth. What should medicine do when it cannot save your life? It should prolong an individual’s life or it can improve the quality of those final days.
In the article, “Letting Go” a young woman named Sara finds out she has lung cancer during her pregnancy. After inducing labor, she began cancer treatment with a myriad of treatments and drugs. Once one drug failed, the doctors tried another and another and Sara grew sicker and sicker. So one might ask, why go through the agonizing process of medical treatment when ultimately you will die from the disease? Well, in this case, Sara probably wanted to prolong her life so she could spend some time with her newborn daughter. In her mind, the expensive medical treatments were worth it to see her daughter grow up, even if only for a short time.
In other instances, the patient may want to prolong their life for other reasons, such as saying goodbye or spending time with family before they pass. This can be a great gift. Car accident victims, for example, would not get the opportunity to say bye to their loved ones or leave any last wishes. Another gift medicine can provide when not saving your life is to give temporary relief. If a patient is terminally ill, there is a good chance they are in a great deal of pain. Medicine is a way to help relieve some of their suffering, so their last moments can be more comfortable.
The comic posted above brings up a very interesting point. I would agree that I would like to know when and where I will die. That way, I could do all the things I want to do before I go. Essentially, this is the gift medicine gives us. It allows those with an illness to prolong life, so they can say their final goodbyes. However, the comic brings up another noteworthy thought when he says, “..so I can avoid it” Eventually everyone dies, so medicine does not prevent the death, it just holds it off for a later date.