Letter from Langdon: Endings
[imgbelt img=oswaldsbahamas320.jpg]Rumors, misunderstanding, and “strategies” walk in where mere mortals fear to tread. Can we talk about dying?
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All photos: Courtesy of Richard OswaldThe author’s parents, Merry and Ralph Oswald, 1980
When Margaret (not her real name) told me that the Obama health care proposals contained sinister plans for “youth in Asia,” I was puzzled. Were we planning to import low-paid juveniles from the Third World to subsidize the health care industry? (I think we already have: every large urban hospital I’ve been in over the last ten years is cleaned by Asian workers.)
It turns out my ringing ears had betrayed me again. Margaret didn’t say “Youth in Asia.” She was talking about the Kevorkian practice of ending life, known as “euthanasia.”
In some parts of the country they call unfounded rumors lies. But if a lie has political origins, it’s called a “strategy.” Claims that euthanasia is part of the proposed health care reform are political “strategies.” They’re rumors started by folks who like things just the way they are.
I investigated Margaret’s claim, and what I think she was talking about was a provision for counseling about options at the end of life. That’s a new sounding term for a very old concept — that sometimes it’s best just to let nature take its course.
I consider life’s beginning with birth and ending with death
inescapable facts. While birth is nearly always a joyful event, the fact
of death is never pleasant.
When our father passed away 15 years ago, my sister and I were spared the decision of whether or not to prolong Dad’s life because our mother was in charge. Dad had had a series of strokes that affected his mind and left him partially disabled. High blood pressure and arterial disease were his diagnoses.
On the day he died, Dad’s blood pressure shot up inexplicably in spite of medications. He was in pain from a burst artery in his groin, a result of high blood pressure, and the doctors said surgery was impossible because of the location of the aneurysm and Dad’s overall condition. When Mother asked if there were anything we could do, the doctor said we could mange Dad’s pain. Pain killers were administered, and nature took its course.
[imgcontainer left] [img:oswalds70320.jpg] Ralph and Merry Oswald, 1970