Let Me Die!!
Have you ever thought about when you would die? In what circumstances? When you hit 40 years, would your body be paying for the things you did earlier in life? All the tobacco, the alcohol, promiscuity, sedentary living, and the salt of course. Or will it just be one of the many cancers? In the movies, the doctors would say, “Am sorry Sisa, we tried everything, it might be that time to prepare them (pointing at my small beautiful family) for your absence.” In real life, the modern world, that doesn’t happen. Doctors will throw around medical jargon such as palliation, quality over quantity, comfortable end-of-life; however, not a single one will tell you that you are dying.
In a society that doesn’t accept death, it’s only your body that knows you are dying. Modern medicine and technology gives you the illusion that death is a metabolic syndrome that can be controlled, delayed. However, what happens is an only distribution of the pain of death over an extended time. What comes at the expense of the longer days? While the devil in medical treatment brings in more days, financial, physical, and emotional costs are taken out. The doctor and the health care systems are enjoying the economic benefits, while your body suffers, in silence, the physical and emotional costs. This is the point when war terms are used, such as “hit it hard,” to distract you from death.
As a finalist medical student, I would never tell my patient, friend, or relative just to let more-than-second stage cancer, live failure, NYHA stage IV heart failure or end-stage renal disease devour them. However, I feel it would be my responsibility to let them know that despite the medical treatment, they will still be ravaged, though, at a slower pace, the false sense of hope will deter them from arranging their internal affairs before death. I would say that at that point, the treatment offered is just rearranging the chairs on a sinking Titanic. The human flesh, corrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin, would have reached the deciding moment, to die. Despite the refusal to accept that fact, you blaming the environment, bad luck, or ancestors, your biological shell shall win.
I am not advocating for people to deny medical treatment. I am advocating for you to die wisely. Before your biological shell becomes flawed, understand the costs of treatment before diseases come. Set boundaries on when would it be silly to refuse treatment, and that point where the doctors would be extending death. I wouldn’t treat cancer beyond stage 2, NYHA stage IV, stroke, or ESRD. As an educated individual, you know with life comes death. Believing that death is abstract and not thinking about your end of life is delegating that responsibility to a healthcare system which has personal interests(profits) that overlap yours(cure).
Therefore, before you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, explore all your medical options. Think about death. Even though religion, the only cultural institution that would put death in a better context, is on its deathbed; when you are alive and healthy, accept death, put meaning to it that transcends the materialism of this modern world-just the way the Vikings believed in Valhalla. Instead of spending your last days fighting a losing battle (listening to encouragement, doctor appointments, intensive chemotherapy, managing side effects, and draining family financial stores), prepare early; explore your medial options-preventive, curative, rehabilitative and “Do Not Resuscitate”, choose when your family and health industry should let you die.
If there’s a thing I have learned, from Jenkinson (2017) in Die Wise, medical school and experience, it’s that I shouldn’t count on words that encourage me to fight, I shouldn’t wait for anyone to tell me that I am dying. My doctor won’t, my family won’t, my friends won’t, my beautiful wife won’t. Instead, they will give me non-existent hope to fight. Henceforth, when I get terminal illness, don’t ask me to fight, don’t let the doctor give me “the best option”, a treatment that will napalm my body, don’t resuscitate me, and please don’t request me to fight so that you don’t suffer the grief of my absence. I will thank you for your love, and say “Let me die!!”.
Jenkinson, S. (2017). Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. New York, NY: North Atlantic Books.
Sisa Ian Duncan
Lomondo Kotido Ink.