Unnecessary Suffering and Indignity at End of Life

Dear Barbara: I heard your Art of Manliness podcast. It was very enlightening. Thank you. I recently read a NY Times article, and felt it described “labor” very differently than the peaceful/delusional version you described. I’m curious of your reaction...

NYTimes: System Failure 


Thank you so much for sending me this article. What was my reaction? I
shared it to my Facebook End of Life and Bereavement group. On it I
wrote: "A good read. Thank you for sharing this with me. How can we make
physicians and the hospitals they work in more sensitive to end of life. This
experience is happening country wide. It is not what most people want, so
why are we letting it happen? I've been advocating for thirty-eight years yet
some days I feel we are going backward instead of forward. Dying is not a
medical event. It is a normal, natural part of living. Why can't we in the
medical arena recognize there is a time to stop and let life come to it's
natural end---the operative word here being natural. I guess this article
definitely touched a nerve in me.”

As you can see I become angry and frustrated when people, through the
ignorance of their families or the medical professionals, have to end their
lives with unnecessary suffering and indignity. What was described in the
article is not how most people want to die. Yet because we all like to
pretend that we are never going to die, Advance Directives are not made
before they are needed. And when they are needed we are generally too
sick to make rational decisions or, sometimes, even to be listened to and

It is part of how our medical system works that that woman was in the ICU
for four months. I have to ask, why? Knowing what was happening to her
body even a non medical person could see she was not going to be fixed.
She would never be returned to any kind of a normal life. Yet apparently no
one questioned the goal of all the medical "treatments" she was receiving. I
think in most of these situations the goal is simply to keep the person

We have the medical capabilities and procedures to keep a person alive
almost indefinitely BUT is it in the best interest of the person to do so? We
have to ask “what is living? “Why are we extending this life?” We should
always remember, “For everything there is a season, --- a time to be born,
and a time to die.”

This woman suffered until she was dead---needlessly. She received most of
her medical treatments because they were available to be done. Just
because we can do various medical procedures (dialysis, liver transplants,
even ventilators) doesn’t mean it is in the best interest of the patient to
have them done.

Something More... about Unnecessary Suffering and Indignity...
Brett McKay interviewed me for his podcast, The Art of Manliness. He
focused on my book, The Final Act of Living. I give specific details on
making an advance directive so that the suffering and indignities
experienced by so many won’t happen to you.

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