I feel like Susan Jacoby proves a very valid point in showing the contradiction that is apparent between the value that American society places on personal choices, and America’s reluctance to make their own decisions regarding their own death. It makes one wonder, what exactly are the reasons for this large contradiction? It seems like Americans are always consistent at choosing what kind of car they want, what kind of school their children go to, what types of insurance they have, etc., but when it comes to end of life decisions such as having a living will or other types of advanced healthcare directive, why is it that so many Americans neglect it, or are too ignorant to even think of having one?
Regardless of what age someone is, if an unexpected or traumatic event happens, causing them to become incompetent, then who is able to make their decisions for them if they haven’t did so yet themselves? The answer to this is a surrogate, usually being the next of kin who can be anyone from a spouse, a child, or parents depending on the situation. Not knowing exactly what it is that a person wants can place extreme amounts of stress on the surrogate (or surrogates), who may be unsure as well. Like in the article, “Taking Responsibility for Death,” the side story that is told of how an adult daughter throws a coffee pot at her brother for suggesting that their comatose mother be taken off her respirator. It is clear that many different factors and controversies may arise when discussing what should be done with the patient, who in fact has no chance of getting better. This is why it is important for the person to have some kind of Healthcare directive. It take the stress off of their family in ways that they do not have to make the ultimate decision of ending that person’s life. It also can help so that tens of thousands of dollars of medical bill aren’t piling up, simply for keeping a person alive who has no chance of becoming better. Although I would hate to see a beloved family member be taken off their life-sustaining medical device, if that was what they ultimately wanted then I would respect their wishes knowing that it is their own choice of ending their own life instead of not staying alive and in agony.
If a person doesn’t have any kind of healthcare directive, then the surrogates makes the decision based on what they think is best based on what the doctor tells them. At this point communication is critical, so that the patient knows exactly what is going on. It is up to the patient to ask questions and sometimes even question the healthcare provider and make decisions accordingly based on what they think their loved one would prefer the most. It is also up to them to question the types of treatment that their loved one would be getting as well, and know whether it can in fact, possibly help the patient recover, or simply just prolong the dying process, making it that much more harder on everybody. Asking questions is the best thing a surrogate can do to insure that the best plan of action can be carried out; one that would not only benefit the dying person the most, but benefit everyone around them as well.
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” This famous quote by George Eliot is very moving and means that as long as deceased people are still in our hearts and memories, its almost like they are still around. Well in this article, the exact opposite is what’s going on, and this man was legally declared dead by a judge. Donald Eugene Miller Jr., a recovering alcoholic, was declared dead legally after disappearing for eight years. Now, even though you would think that it should be wrong for a person to be declared dead when really it is just an assumption, I feel that there has to be a line drawn in order to finally declare someone as dead. If he was only gone for a few months to a year, then maybe that would be a different story, but disappearing for 8 YEARS is absolutely ridiculous and gives the law no reason to have any clue that one may be alive. What if he actually did die? Like say got lost at sea while on a boat or something of that matter to be gone for 8 years. That’s what one would assume, but either way, now that he is appearing in court, he should have the rights to his social security back and his death certificate revoked even though there is a 3 year limit to revoke it. Overall, I found this article to be quite controversial in terms of what the law should do to help him legally get his life back. It is a case that seems so odd and irregular that not even the law knows what to do. I can only imagine what is going on through the man’s head wile legally having the title of not living, while he is in fact breathing and alive.
I found this prompt to be quite intriguing in a way. Upon first reading it, I immediately envisioned a dying person who was suffering from a terminal illness and immediately thought that if a medicine cannot cure someone then its only other purpose would have to be to just relieve pain right? Well upon reading the story from the posted link, my perspective was slightly changed, and I felt like I was able to put myself in the shoes of someone who was dying from a terminal illness.
Although it is probably impossible to fully understand what a person goes through when they are told that they have a terminal illness, it is obvious that they are going to be devastated until the point where they nearly lose hope. Knowing that you have an illness that is going to soon take your life away makes it that much more easier to want to give up, and this is why the doctor may try to prescribe several different types of medications, even if they know that the success rate is slim to none. As a dying cancer patient, however, this may bring some hope and happiness between the patient and their family, and this may actually help the patient live longer. For example, in the story, the doctor first prescribed to Sara a chemotherapy drug called Tarceva, and stated to her that over 85% respond to the drug with some even having long term results. Of course with her life on the line, Sara was more than happy to hear this sugar-coated, “reassuring gloss on dire reality.” However, once the drug had failed to do its job, and the doctor told her that it wasn’t working, she had a violent physical reaction to the news, causing her to have diarrhea. This was followed by several other drugs that were prescribed to her with supposedly good success rates, each with the same negative results.
Of course the doctors do all they can to attempt to help relieve the pain and suffering of their patient, but it gets to a point where medicine is not enough alone. Its almost as if the doctors are prescribing mental therapy in a sense in order to help their patients cope, and this is good since it is there job to help their patient feel better overall. Although medicine is usually used as a pain reliever or as a cure from an illness, it is often also used as a tool of comfort and relief for the patient when they are too ill to be cured. This can provide the patient with a reassuring sense of hope, and sometimes that is all that is needed to make the patient with the terminal illness to live longer and better.
I feel like quite often, death and dying is portrayed somewhat poorly in the media. It is very common for action movies and even the news to only show the terrible, catastrophic, and gruesome deaths that happen and this is purely for entertainment. Of course these types of deaths do happen in reality but it is misleading because these obviously aren’t the only types of deaths that occur. What about other less-dramatic types of death that aren’t often showed in movies or the news? Most types of media rarely show the more non-spontaneous deaths that occur even more often in real life, such as a person battling a terminal illness. I feel like these types of deaths aren’t portrayed in the media because it may seem less exciting or entertaining, but deaths this way are very common and happen everyday.
One movie that comes to mind that I feel has a very accurate portrayal of death is Tuesdays With Morrie. It is centered upon a middle-aged man named Mitch, and shows what he has to go through when he finds out that his 78 year old former professor named Morrie has been diagnosed with ALS and is on the verge of dying. Mitch reflects on his past experiences with his beloved professor and tries to find time to visit him several states away as he is bombarded each and every day with his chaotic career as a sports journalist. This movie portrays death very well because not only does it show the unexpectedness of death, but it also shows how death is usually a long and drawn out process. Mitch eventually finds time to visit his former professor and makes it a routine to visit him each Tuesday. This made the movie interesting because this caused him to see the deteriorating health condition of his friend, and this made the death of Morrie much more surreal. Eventually, Mitch is informed of his friend passing away, and this made him more aware of death being inevitable and that it will in fact happen to everyone.
In summary, I feel like media often shows a one-sided and misleading portrayal of death, and this causes society to have a misinterpretation of death in general. Although I would say that we do live in a death denying society, movies such as Tuesdays With Morrie show the realistic side of dying and it is films like these that can help us to understand the reality of death and dying in the real world.