Medicine has improved drastically over the years. The success of modern medicine has helped eradicate some of the most deadly diseases in the world, which in turn saved, and prolonged many lives. So when a patient gets the news from their doctor that medicine has failed (e.g., chemotherapy is no longer helping a cancer patient), one can understand the panic that they may have; because when medicine fails, there is a strong possibility that the patient may have death in their near future. Medicine exists to fight disease and death, but eventually, death does overcome and win. Everyone wants medicine to win, but reality is, it can’t always be the hero.
In Gwande’s article, he shared with readers his experiences with terminally ill patients. One story he shared that really stuck out to me was Sara Monopoli’s. Sara’s doctor had given her the news that she had inoperable lung cancer. She received this news when she was pregnant with her first child, so they induced her labor so she could begin her battle with the disease. One of Sarah’s main requests was to die at home and not in a hospital; but despite her requests, she died in a hospital room. Her family made the decision to end Sarah’s suffering and stop all treatments. Her quality of life was brought down because she died in the hospital, and her medical treatments caused harsh side effects. If she had died in a different setting, such as hospice care, she probably would have lived longer and died with much more comfort, the way she deserved. Instead of the doctors throwing medical jargon at Sarah, they should have asked what her interests where, they should have made her feel comfortable. These are priorities that people seem to be forgetting in healthcare. We are constantly thinking about medicine and ways to improve it to save people’s lives and when it can’t, we give up and say it’s the end. What’s most important is giving people a comfortable, desirable death that they deserve. If medicine can’t save our lives then I would hope that it would heal us not only physically, but also mentally, especially in our last moments.
Some are afraid of death, and others have no fear of death at all. In most of the T.V shows and movies that I watch, the main characters are afraid of death and try to avoid it at all costs. But one show that premiered in January 2010 called Spartacus showed me and other viewers that these characters did not fear death. This show is about a Thracian Gladiator named Spartacus who breaks free from slavery and then leads other slaves against the Roman Republic taking a plethora of lives in the process. He was very successful, but Spartacus met his end in the last episode of season three. In the last big war against Marcus Crassus, many of Spartacus’s allies died, and only a few survived. Spartacus’s wounds from war were too great, and he died. He died surrounded by his friends and the last of the survivors. He died happy and his last words expressed the joy that he had because finally, he was a free man. He also mentioned in his last words that he would be happy to see his wife again on the other side (whom died in season one).
Despite all of the blood and gore of this show and of Spartacus’s death, I believe that his death was portrayed in a helpful, even relatable manner to many other people in society. Something that helps people cope with death is the joy of what comes afterwards; the joy of going to heaven, and the joy of seeing people that they have previously lost, similar to how Spartacus felt. The ways that characters in Hollywood movies and shows deal with death is similar to how people in the society deal with death, one similarity being what happens after death. Many deaths that I see in the media are always saying things similar to this: “we will see them in heaven,” “you will be at peace,” or “see you on the other side.” Hearing these types of remarks and having a religion to back it up makes death seem not so final after all. Even when a villain dies in a movie or T.V. show its always a remark like “go to hell,” or, “your gonna suffer in hell forever.” Majority of the media and people in the society always portray that there is something or someplace after death, even for the villains! So I wouldn’t say that all of America is a death denying culture, because we all know death is coming, and many are able to cope with death because of the religion they chose to believe in. Spartacus knew death was inevitable and knew it was coming, sooner if not later. And for that very reason, he chose not to be afraid of death; he even ended up embracing it.