Quality of Life

Medical advances have come a long way in extending the lives of patients who have chronic or terminal illnesses. We are able to treat people for long periods of time, who without these advances, would have died shortly after their diagnosis. Through all of this, though, we still know that death is inevitable. So, what should we do when medicine fails and cannot keep patients alive any longer?

To me, the answer seems obvious. If we cannot increase the quantity of time someone has left to live, then we should focus instead on increasing the quality of their time.  The answer also comes in the form of palliative care and hospice care. These types of care aim at making patients feel more comfortable, with the least amount of pain possible, with less focus on curative care. They stop trying to cure the patient and start to manage their pain, physically and emotionally. The practice of hospice includes providing comfort and education to families of the patients as well.  In the article we read about the hospice nurse that visited Dave and Sharon. Dave was a 42 year old with pancreatic cancer. His wife Sharon wanted to provide his care. The hospice nurse comes by to educate Sharon on how she can help her husband. The hospice nurse brings by medication to help Dave feel more comfortable and to feel less pain. The article also says that in a study researchers were able to find that those patients who opted for hospice care lived longer than those who instead chose to continue rigorous treatments. It would seem that hospice patients are happier and have a more optimistic mindset. 

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When medicine is no longer available to cure patients, it should be used to increase their quality of life. In my opinion it is better to enjoy the amount of time you have left, than to decrease the quality trying to avoid unavoidable death. 

Little Miss Sunshine

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I have found that the death of a main character occurs more often in independent films than it does in the larger production films. I think this is partially due to America being a “death denying culture”. The general public usually doesn’t want to see a movie if they know the main character will die. One of my favorite independent films is Little Miss Sunshine, which happens to portray the death of a main character.

 This movie is about a dysfunctional family who set out on a road trip to fulfill the dreams of the youngest, Olive, who wishes to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. The family cannot afford airfare to the pageant and is forced to take their Volkswagen Bus on a road trip to California. Olive’s grandfather, who was recently kicked out of his retirement home for his use of heroin, comes along for the trip. Olive, who is oblivious to her grandfather’s drug use, looks up to him for support and pageant help.

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On the way to California they must stop at a motel for the night. Olive wakes up in the morning to find her grandfather dead from an apparent heroin overdose. They take him to the hospital where they realize if they take the time to fill out the necessary paperwork for his death, they would be late for the pageant. Knowing how much the grandfather would want Olive to compete, they decide to sneak his body out of the hospital and take it with them to California. 

Death in this movie is portrayed as unexpected, quick, and also humorous. The characters that are faced with death are shocked but also sad and mournful. When I first watched the movie I did not expect this death at all. It was so surprising to me that they would “kill off” a main character so soon in the movie, but I think that’s exactly how life is. Most of the time, in our lives, death occurs unexpectedly. I think the way the grandfather’s death is portrayed in the movie is shocking but somewhat realistic. The family shows disbelief at first, especially Olive. As a young girl she doesn’t really accept the fact that her grandfather is dead. After she comes to terms with death, she, and the rest of the family show a time of mourning. There is also an element of humor in the way they deal with death, which I think can be helpful in a situation like this. Humor tends to lighten the situation, and is used appropriately in the movie. This film was not afraid to portray death in a realistic manner. I think society usually depicts death as sad, cold, and dark. This movie really pushes those boundaries to show not all people react to death in that way.

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