My father lived to a few days short of his 94th birthday. When he was 92 the nursing home sent him to the hospital because he coughed up blood. They called me; I rushed to the facility, and got there after he had been given a chest x-ray, an electro-cardiogram and no clear diagnosis. The doctor was about to put a tube down his throat to determine where he was bleeding. My father had a living will, a "Do not resuscitate" order and I knew he did not want the procedure. I had a long, terrible conversation with the doctor: What would he do if he found the source of the bleeding? We would not permit surgery. He said Daddy might bleed to death. I asked if it would hurt. On being told no, I was forced to tell him to let my father die. My father was grateful, but the conversation devastated me. Equally awful was the conversation I had with the nursing home.
My father was going blind from macular degeneration and becoming increasingly deaf. I'm know he found no good way to cope with this and wanted to die. I'm sure he died when his life became unbearable. I am pleased I was able to keep him from one more pointless indignity and a bad sore throat.
My mother lived to 89. She was completely demented; did not know who my father was, or who I was; saw visions and finally spent most of her last days unconscious. My father took care of her until four days before her death, when unconscious and incontinent I insisted she be taken to a nursing home. After two days the doctor called me and asked if he could take her to the hospital. I said no. He then called my brother, who had little to do with my mother's care, who said yes. For the next two days my comatose mother was enthroned on a kind of pedestal bed with multiple tubes from her body to multiple machines. Then she died. Those two days cost Medicare $10,000 in 1995. Assuming those multiple machines could have saved her, what would be the point? So more money could be spent on maintaining a completely meaningless life?
I think there should be universal healthcare. I think there should be single payer universal healthcare, although I don't believe it will happen in my lifetime. I don't believe the government wants to kill me or keep me from living the fullest possible life. I would like the government and the healthcare system to allow me to die when my time has come.
For a great discussion of the economics of healthcare listen to this program from the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC. Brian Lehrer has many great discussions about healthcare and other matters of pressing interest.