“Time Management: The Stuff of Life”
October 4, 2009–I remember when my Mother was in the hospital in her mid-70’s, with a bright mind and frail body. Always one to carefully watch her diet and weight, she was now vulnerable to the throes of serious illness.
Mother had always been dignified. She didn’t believe in “putting on the dog”; she lived as she truly was. Never one to complain, or even share her feelings often, she took life exactly as it came, and remained stoic.
One of the sad and troubling memories of her hospitalization, almost from admission, was the attitude of Staff that, “she’s lived a good life”. I knew immediately that they had given up before even trying. They’d made their decision to simply let nature take its course. That moment of truth became my challenge. No supposition of death was acceptable to me. Who were these people we’d never met? Who gave them the right to determine who lives, and who dies? We’d come to the medical community for help. Who were they to pre-judge and deny it?
In many respects what people fear with the “government option” already exists. Somewhere up the line, decisions are already formed. We’ve stopped including certain tests at age 65 regardless of patient history. We don’t tell patients all of their options. Someone decides for the patient that if a procedure isn’t covered by insurance, the patient doesn’t need to even know about it, let alone have the chance to offer to pay.
Already some legislatures decide what medical services will be reimbursed, and thereby determine who lives and who dies by default. Already insurance companies decide, and not always in a timely manner, if procedures will be covered regardless of physician recommendation. Private companies refuse to take Medicare and Medicaid, and some rehabilitation hospitals refuse to take patients without insurance. I have to admit to my personal pleasure when one large rehabilitation hospital network went bankrupt. Was it really only because of money, or lack of it? Or might it have been because it no longer met its own healing mission, and died because it lost it’s original vision? Healthcare, like education, should be a personal calling, not simply a business.
I was there when families’ only option was to take patients on ventilators home to care for them without assistance. Faced with fear and uncertainty, they gave permission for patients to be taken off the ventilators without appropriate and needed weaning in a rehabilitation hospital due to their lack of insurance. I remember Dad, a U.S. District Judge, calling the practice murder. But he died shortly afterward, leaving me as perhaps the only voice strong enough to “bear witness”.
This problem is major, but nobody seems to be listening. Refusing to tell patients all of their medical options. Refusing to take patients on ventilators into nursing home facilities due to lack of reimbursement for ventilator services. Some Legislators are not only blind and ignorant toward this issue, but worse–they refuse even to listen! Some refused to even take my calls requesting an appointment to meet with them to tell them what was happening!
My story of Mother’s hospitalization was not all bad, although for the next almost two years I had to fight for her every step of the way against not only age discrimination, but religious and cultural beliefs about what the patient should have. It never seemed to matter if Staff religious beliefs did not concur with ours. One young resident told me that it wasn’t God’s will for patients to have internal (ventilator) supports. He was shocked at my response: “There will come a time when nothing you do will make a difference.” He readily agreed, but wasn’t prepared for the follow up. “Until that time, you’re to do everything possible.”
This Meditation is not written to encourage meaningless medical efforts unwanted by the patient. It is meant as a “heads-up” to all that in a moment of crisis, if you are not willing to make and fight for your family member’s decision, someone else will be eager to make it for you.
Are we becoming a country that values only those who can work to support the economy, leaving the young, elderly, poor, and disabled to fend for themselves? If so, then maybe what I’ve described is only a manifestation of our inhuman values. The choice is ours to be fully-human, as defined by our ability to have empathy, and to care. This Meditation is dedicated to our “humanity”, and our need to never lose it!
Sue Kidd Shipe, Ph.D.
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Important Dates to Remember:
September 11, Annually International Unity Day
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October 2009 Release of: Fibromyalgia: Awareness, Advocacy, and Action
Report of the Select Empowerment Seminar on Fibromyalgia
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