Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Time to Talk Turkey

Slide from Engage with Grace.

Can you answer those questions? Does someone else name you in their answers? Maybe life and death is worth 2 minutes of both your time while everyone is gathered together this holiday season.

Once upon a time, death was a binary thing; a man walked to work alive, but then he fell off a building and he was dead. A woman bled to death in child birth. A grandfather clutched his chest, took his pulse, and collapsed, dead. Modern medical science took this simple dichotomy and added a hundred and one shades of gray between breathing, laughing, crying, working, sweating life and cold, stiff death.

A wise doctor is fond of saying that the biggest shortcoming of American medicine is the failure to discern the difference between could and should, so you are largely on your own. "We could try chemo," the doctor will say. "We could stent that artery." "We could put in a feeding tube and help you breathe with a tube and a machine when you need it." No one will say, "Should we?" unless you do, and no one will know how to answer for you unless you talk about it with them now.

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