Letting Go Near The End

                The medical field should offer the dying person a “good” death.  Since people are individually unique, this “good” death is relative.  The patient centered approach is best.  This approach considers the patient’s interests when making healthcare decisions.  It is contrary to the physician centered approach where decisions are made without patient contribution.  The dying person should have the option of changing their mind about anything, at any time.  For some, it may mean dying in the comfort of your home surrounded by family but for others dying in a hospital with twenty four hour care -hence the term “dying with dignity”.   No matter where the death takes place, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to understand and satisfy the dying person’s unique needs.

            The medical field should encourage the person to have advanced directives.  Any questions should be answered by medical professionals.  Decisions cannot be made without specific, honest and professional advice.  In the reading, we learned it is probably less painful to be hungry than to have a protruded abdomen.  So, depending on the circumstances, we may decide to forgo food.

                The doctor (unlike Monopoli’s) should make known to the dying person their disease state.  This honesty will allow time to be budgeted for the social and emotional closure the person needs.   These needs vary.  Some people will want formal goodbyes and some will be happy knowing that they are remembered. 

A small party can be assembled to tell the person how much they are loved and will be remembered.  The medical community must yield private time to allow these social and psychological finalities.

            Another area the medical community needs to address is keeping the dying physically comfortable.  Foremost, the doctor should alleviate any suffering by prescribing medication.  An aide may offer comfort by turning a fan on or ensuring there are no bed sores forming.  A volunteer can lightly massage aching hands or feet.  A counselor can help the dying who become depressed or anxious over family strive arising from the death.   The medical field must become part of a team.

            To conclude, a “good” death is characterized by an interdisciplinary approach in which the dying person is allowed to make decisions about their own end of life choices.  The medical personnel should make the person aware of their end of life choices and the progression of the illness so that the person can make wise decisions.  The doctor should always give honest opinions and help alleviate pain.  The person should be allowed to have quality time with their lifelong connections and say their goodbyes.

The team should be able to connect the person to community professionals for spiritual closure, for mental health services, and for taking care of any unfinished business.  And, last, it is my opinion that life should not be prolonged beyond futility.  Still, in the context of this reading, the decision should always be that of the dying whose wishes are most important. 

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Death Portrayal in “The Bucket List”

                Humans seem to be the only creatures that have a concept of time in motion.  We are always advancing toward death and we know that death must come.  So why are we afraid to think about our own death?  It seems death is a normal, inescapable experience for the living, but many humans fear it, and many cultures avoid discussing it.

                One reason for this denial and fear might be because death no longer occurs surrounded by family.  Instead, hospitals have taken the family’s place and no longer have to face death “in the eye”.  One movie, The Bucket List is a comedic attempt at the very notion of death denial.  In The Bucket List, we see that chronic illnesses can afford a sick person, their family, and friends time to reflect on life and death.

                The title of the movie is a reflection of America’s death denying attitude.  The title is simply an extension of the euphemism “kicking the bucket” and is meant to lighten the viewer’s preconceptions about death in the movie.  The title focuses attention away from the death and on to the last stage of life.  Consider if the title of it was “Death Beckons”.  Would audiences still want to see the movie? 

                Many lines in the movie are thought provoking but one in particular stands out.  Carter is asked what he is doing in the hospital bed and he replies, “fighting’ for my life.”  His words indicate that he wants to live and demonstrates death denial because he sees his life being taken from him.  Although, he is actively dying, he did not outright say this because lying in the hospital bed disguises death and gives the dying person hope. 

                The movie displays some diverse aspects concerning death including spirituality.  Cole has unique unresolved spiritual issues and he states he cannot grasp the concept of faith.  Cole reacts to Carter’s faith stating, “Halleluiah, pass the mustard!”  Perhaps Cole fears the unknown afterlife.   The conversation brings to light that accepting faith is an individual experience with diverse outcomes.

                Both men deal with psychosocial matters before their deaths, but Cole has painful emotional issues to resolve.  Cole, looking ill, looks in the mirror and states that somewhere somebody is having a heart attack.  Until now, his life had been career climbing with him in control, and he would rather have evaded this confrontation by dying suddenly (like heart attack).  Cancer forces him to confront the unresolved emotional things.  Cole needs to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter and does so by kissing a beautiful girl (his granddaughter)—one of the last items on his list ( see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iioBwO6vnEs )

                Overall, the movie portrays the realistic yet diverse aspects of death: fear of facing the unknown, solitude, and denying life ends too soon.  In my opinion, a bucket list should embody not just one’s last days, but everyone should do their own “bucket list” long before facing death.