This is medicine's version of not seeing the forest for the trees. The vascular surgeon and cardiologist could repair my father's body, but how would that benefit him? Could he go on living in a way that was meaningful for him? Instead of searching for the next "fix," we need to know when to use -- or not use -- our growing tool kit of "fixes."
No one wants to make arrangements for the death of a terminally ill friend or family member. It's painful to think about any loved one's eventual passing, but it's important to make the arrangements sooner rather than later. In fact, it's best to do it when you first learn your loved one has a terminal diagnosis. Why?
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the well-known bioethicist and brother of the mayor of my town, argued recently in an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that 75 is the perfect age to die. After that, he said, most people have little to contribute to society and are a burden rather than a benefit. I can think of few less-Jewish ideas than this. It is not only heartless but wrong.
"You want to get a Do Not Resuscitate tattoo on your chest?" I asked, as one might say to a friend whose goal was to lose 50 pounds. You'd support it, but you knew it would never happen. "No, I have one," she said quietly, pulling her shirt aside modestly to show the skin over her heart muscle. I stared at it unbelieving.