What should medicine do when it can’t save your life? It’s a tough question to answer when you think of the grey area that tends to lie between life and death. There are so many circumstances that pose challenges because they don’t fit the typical mold. They have extenuating circumstances that blur the lines of what we often believe we want. These special circumstances lead us to question our initial wants.
A great example of this comes from the TV series Grey’s Anatomy. In season one a retired scrub nurse that graced the operating rooms of Seattle Grace for decade’s returns; but this time as a patient. Her case is assigned to Dr. Cristina Yang who lacks a patient centered approach. Dr. Yang, who is known for her love of surgical procedures, deems it necessary to prolong the life of the scrub nurse for as long as possible. While our quantity of life is important it’s also equally critical to realize the impact that our quality of life has on other aspects of our time. Many of us don’t want our last moments to be spent in an unfamiliar setting such as a hospital room. In addition, most of us fear becoming a burden to our family. I have included a video clip that shows that some of us prefer to ‘let go’ and appreciate the quality of our last days; while others prefer to have more quantity instead.
This idea leads us back to our original question. If medical intervention cannot save our life, shouldn’t it be used to provide as much comfort and relief as possible to our last days? If we know that medical intervention can no longer offer a positive outcome it should serve as a tool to make the duration of our existence as tolerable as possible. It should ease our suffering and pain in our last moments and allow us to enjoy what matters most.
This issue leads us to more questions. Should we attempt to stave off inevitable death which leads to incurring massive amounts of hospital bills? Shouldn’t we consider that extending our lives beyond their normal capacity creates a burden on our families? Is the care worth it when you know you or your loved one will not survive? Questions like these make us question common healthcare practices. These circumstances also force us recognize that sometimes we’re preventing the inevitable.