Debating Death, And A Dig At Democrats

What more could you ask for?

This post isn’t about Democrats, really, except to say that there is talent out there, on the inner-tubes, and good ideas can be gleaned with a little effort.  I say this because of both Southern Beale and Tiny Cat Pants called out our State party over it’s incestuous, patriarchal, elitist, and dare I say…white bred nature, and they were right to do so.  I don’t have much to add, but I did read something in the comments section over at TPM that I thought was clever and useful for campaigning Democrats.  The thread was about Pawlenty’s suicidal line in the sand over the Ryan medicare plan, and someone referred to it as “coupon care.”  This is what the other side does so well.  They pay mad money to hucksters who are adept at reducing complicated legislative proposals into bumper-sticker sized slogans, which usually appeal to the lowest common denominator.  I don’t like to play that game, but at the moment, its the one being played, and we continue to come in last at it.  They will not stop doing it until we beat them at it repeatedly.  Six Vanderbilt grads with little non-academic life experience, sitting in a comfy room, isn’t likely to brainstorm their way to election day landslides.  Also, if I may, if you continually lose in a specific county, maybe its time to spend a little time there to see if the State-wide, cookie cutter hack-a-thon (thanks Josh!) campaign template is a good fit for the people who actually live and vote there.  Thats all I got.

Alright, speaking of the comments section over at TPM, I read something there today that spoke to me:

“Having watched both of my parents outlive their health and their cognitive faculties by several heartbreaking years, the notion that I should bend heaven and earth to live as long as humanly possible now makes much less sense to me. As a result, I no longer worry so much about that marbled steak or the glass of scotch, or what my cholesterol levels are. If I pop off shoveling the sidewalk at 78, so be it. It beats the hell out of ending up as pathetic and miserable as my Dad did.”

I’m right there with him/her.  This won’t make me popular with many people, but we really have an inflated sense of entitlement with respect to how long we should continue to take up space on this planet.  What system can we come up with that will keep people not just alive, but relatively pain-free well into their 90’s, but doesn’t drain their financial resources?  Something has to give.   I don’t blame people for wanting to live every minute they can, I have children and grandchildren and good friends and I want to be around them for as long as possible.  Here is my beef…if my fondness for tequila causes my liver to give up when I’m say, 75, is it fair to expect that the State or Federal govt pay for a transplant?  If I decide not to burden working people with that expense, and I have a few bucks I’d like to pass on to my kids to give them a leg up, shouldn’t I have a right to go into a room, with a doctor, and ease out on my own terms?  I mean, of course I’d be responsible for the co-pay….

I have real trouble protecting the Medicare status quo.  It simply isn’t sustainable in it’s current form.  I have an 80 yr old relative that saw a doctor for knee pain, and within an hour could have scheduled two knee replacements and a hip replacement.   He’s 80.  I don’t begrudge him the surgery, he worked his whole life and payed his taxes and I love him beyond measure, but there is no way that doctor would have suggested to proceed if the patient in front of him wasn’t on Medicare. Was it possible that a single knee might have taken the strain off of his hip and other knee?  Could drugs and therapy alleviate his symptoms long enough for him to go on about his business?  I can’t blame the doctor, he may still be paying back a quarter million in school costs and surgeons pay a ridiculous amount of money for malpractice insurance.  Were I in his shoes, I’d conduct every test imaginable, as long as Medicare was paying.

Bah, this is so tough to write about.  There are hard questions that never get debated, and thats not likely to change for quite some time.  I guess all we can do is act according to our own ethical boundaries, whatever those may be.

I’m sitting here laughing at myself because my first paragraph was rant about how we don’t best utilize catch phrases and dog-whistles to beat our political opponents, yet everything that followed lamented the sad state of affairs surrounding the Medicare debate, or lack of it.

I’m a riddle.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Debating Death, And A Dig At Democrats

  1. gregg

    Thing of it is pilgrim few people think they have gotten quite old enough to go sit on that ice flow and watch the Aurora Borealis as their extremities go cold no matter what their age. This may be related to the fact that no one knows what the hell happens after the lights of this veil of tears (the priest always said that when I was sitting there in church waiting for the chalice to go back in the little box so I could book and study the dirty books at the newsstand on the way home) ends and few are not frightened by the idea that the just might not “be” anymore. So yeah give me a cow’s heart and a dogs spinal column and I’ll hang around for awhile or at least until the Knicks win the goddamn championship again.

    Anyhow regards to your family and the answer to your conundrum is to just stay young.

  2. There is no end to the “End of Life” debate. One thing to bear in mind is that all of those dollars spent on “heroic” measures for people whose quality of life is crapola are dollars that aren’t spent to keep the younger people healthy. Just a thought.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out. I don’t remember saying anything about the TNDP but maybe I did!

    The thing about Medicare is, we’d pretty much solve the insolvency issue if we could just use the massive bulk buying power of Medicare and allow it to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper prescription drugs. Something the idiot REPUBLICANS actually made ILLEGAL with their awful, unpaid-for Medicare Part D law. The one that was so heinous the GOP actually had to keep the vote open until the wee hours of the morning so they could strong-arm enough REPUBLICAN votes. Even the Republicans didn’t want it!

    But yeah, the government uses its bulk buying power for everything else. The VA uses its bulk buying power to negotiate for lower drug costs. I mean, that just makes sense. The fact that Medicare is one and only aspect of the U.S. government prohibited by law from doing this was just a giant huge sop to Big Pharma.

    And for that matter, let’s reimport drugs from Canada. I mean jeezus this shit isn’t hard. Medicare will be fine if we just quit capitulating to greedy corporations all the time.

  4. Oh yeah, and this:

    I no longer worry so much about that marbled steak or the glass of scotch, or what my cholesterol levels are. If I pop off shoveling the sidewalk at 78, so be it.

    Here’s my issue with this. If there was a guarantee that you’d “pop off” shoveling the sidewalk then maybe, yeah. But there’s no guarantee that this will happen. Instead what is more likely to happen is you’ll stroke out and then either be immobilized for years or struggle along with the ability to only move half your body.

    My mom suffered a stroke, and for three years we had to take care of her because she didn’t just “pop off” after years of smoking and drinking and eating marbled steak. Instead she was in a wheelchair and required constant nursing care and had to be fed through a tube in her stomach because she’d lost her ability to chew and swallow.

    So, you know, there are other options between living the short good life and just popping off, and living a long life on veggies and brown rice.

  5. Yes, Beale, you are right on that. I think there is merit to the idea that a person can miss out on a great many good things life offers in this quest for immortality, though. Why isn’t there some safety valve, some legal instrument that a person can sign while they are healthy that puts real limits on the type and length of care they receive? I don’t mean just heroic measures, I mean the day to day feeding and butt-wiping that no adult should have to undergo, unless they want to?

  6. Well sure, my dad lived on celery water and brown rice and got hit by a car crossing the street. So yeah, there’s no guarantees. No can cheat death, the bell tolls for us all. That said, I’d rather be healthy and go out being active than live the way my mom did her last few years.

    As for the “safety valve,” well there are living wills, but they are somewhat limited. Both my parents had living wills and yet it really ended up being pretty useless in my mom’s case, because the doctors just … didn’t know. No one knows. When it comes to making these decisions every situation is unique. At the end she got an infection, was put in an induced coma, so it wasn’t like the Terri Schiavo situation everyone imagines, where everyone goes, “oh yeah, I don’t want to live like THAT.” It’s not always that cut and dried.

    Of course we kids knew my mom didn’t want to live like Terri Schiavo or be a vegetable on life support, but that wasn’t her situation. Her situation was that she could get better. The doctors couldn’t tell us, “no, there is no brain activity, she’s not there anymore.” They indicated there was a chance she could get better. If the doctors had said, “no, no way will she ever get better” there would have been zero discussion. But up until the infection, she had been a person. She was in a wheelchair but we communicated. We took her to movies. I took her fucking Las Vegas for her birthday. There was a person there.

    So it’s just not easy. It’s never easy. I think asking for it to be easy is asking too much. It shouldn’t be easy.

  7. … adding, feeding and butt wiping is really not that big a deal. Dear Lord I hope no one wants to put me on an ice floe because I need a new box of Depends.

  8. Thanks for sharing that about your mother. I remember picking up my father from the bed, and carrying him to the commode…it wasn’t hard on me, but now I wonder how he felt about it. The indignities of our last days is what I think I fear the most. In the end, you’re right, of course, there are no guarantees.

  9. There’s a lot of talk about how the U.S. population is 5% +/- of the world’s. There is also a lot of talk about our disproportionate use of resources. Within that larger context is the simple fact that medical care is hugely disproportionate amongst the U.S. population.

    Part of the problem is a structural lack of access to decent healthcare (deliberately conceived and enacted, I think) for the lower middle class (working poor) and others. Another part of the problem is the underlying puritanical nature of many people in positions of power and those with the ability to influence or make decisions about these matters.

    People live, people die. It’s important, to me at least, that people not suffer indignity or pain, when those conditions are amenable to treatment. It seems, however, that in the U.S. we have an attitude that “death” is an enemy of “life”. It is not, death is a part of live. Buzzards are as important as butterflies. I’m not in a huge hurry to shuffle off (particularly since I view this as the one and only performance, not just a “run through”) but I’m not sure living to be 90 is the goal–for me at any rate.

  10. Yeah well, Demo, try collecting buzzards in a jar. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    I think you nailed it, truthfully. We are taught to believe that death is the enemy of life, and it is most certainly part of the whole process.

    May you live to be 90. Curmudgeons are important.

  11. Mack:

    Every time you hear, “Hey, you little bastards, Get offamyfrikkin’ LAWN!”, a curmudgeon gets his velcro closure white sneakers and white belt. I’ve been there since 1976.

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