Doctors Nortin M. Hadler and Mark E. Williams recently authored a piece about the changing dynamics of healthcare after retirement, a system dating to the 1960s. They say the modern notion of Americans spend the last years of life has become incredibly sterilized since the influx of for-profit nursing homes. With increasing lifespans and complexity of treatment, what was good for the mid-twentieth century may not be good enough anymore.
Hadler and Williams write:
Today most people die in institutions–in hospitals or nursing homes. Their care often is considered more a technical matter than one of moral concern. Too often in these institutions there is more attention paid to the diseases than to persons, more scientific curiosity about the machinery of the body than consideration of the human values that make a life worthwhile, more focus on subspecialty technicalities and analgesic adjustments with no one looking at the needs of the whole person. Modern medical care has rendered the last illness fiscally burdensome, regardless of age. Modern society has rendered the last illness bereft of grace. Dying in a hospital, subjected to multiple traumatic high-tech procedures and covered with tubes, has become a new symbol of contemporary death, today’s Danse Macabre. Vain hopefulness supplants the touching comfort of goodbye. Dying has become alone.
We are not calling for yet another government program populated by strangers and designed in the abstract. We are calling for a new national priority and new community initiatives.
The full post can be found here.
Hadler, author of Stabbed in the Back and Worried Sick, is a professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and an attending rheumatologist at UNC Hospitals.