Vail Daily letter: Being mortal |

Vail Daily letter: Being mortal

Every human being is brought into this world against their will, kicking and screaming, in pain, oblivious to our environment, quickly jammed into a diaper, helpless and totally dependent on others for at least the first year of life.

At birth, there is absolutely no guarantee how long we will live, as every human being, even those fortunate to dwell in the (so-called) civilized world, is faced with the possibility of being exposed to some horrible disease or illness, an accident, a random act of violence or some other terminal misfortune.

Life, even under the most favorable of circumstances, is unpredictable and the only absolute certainty is that it will come to an end one day. Ask yourself the question: “Does it make any sense at all to spend approximately 75 percent of all we spend on healthcare in our entire lifetime during the last three to six months of life in a futile effort to stave off the inevitable”?

Though we have no say as to where or when we are born, we do have an increasing ability and right (by law) to determine the timing and means of our death; and though I have no fear at all of death, I have no interest at all in being caught up in the horrible way of dying faced by most people in this country.

Having spent enough time to date with good friends who are themselves fighting terminal illness or dementia, or caring for a loved one so afflicted, and having visited folks in nursing homes, CCRCs, and other last lily-pads-in-the-pond venues, I personally do not wish to spend the last year or so of my existence in exactly the same state as my first year of life (see above).

Therefore should I be diagnosed with a terminal illness or the onslaught of one form of dementia or another, it is my intent to make certain my affairs are in order, to say goodbye to my family and friends and ease out the door as quietly and as painlessly as modern medicine now allows.

For a very well-written look at end of life issues that any sensible person would likely wish to avoid, I recommend reading doctor Atul Gawande’s fine book on the subject entitled “Being Mortal”.

Peter Bergh


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