Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How do you expect to die?

Geriatrician Joanne Lynn to an assembly of health policy makers:

“How many of you expect to die?” she asked. The audience fell silent, laughed nervously and only then, looking one to the other, slowly raised their hands. “Would you prefer to be old when it happens?” she then asked. This time the response was swift and sure, given the alternative. Then Dr. Lynn, who describes herself as an “old person in training,” offered three options to the room. Who would choose cancer as the way to go? Just a few. Chronic heart failure, or emphysema? A few more. “So all the rest of you are up for frailty and dementia?” Dr. Lynn asked.
The answer of most Americans, by default, is of course Yes, I'll take the slow decline and a feeding tube with as little dignity as possible, please. Disturbing, isn't it?

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