While I have been an integrated immigrant citizen of a modern Western nation for a very long time, I continue to be surprised by the prevailing attitudes towards a natural phenomenon (and outcome) – death. Even our worst criminals cannot be put to death – by us or by other nations – unlike our political mentor, the USA. Yet, we will enter into wars in distant lands which involve killing (as well as maiming and societal destruction).
Within this nation, I have talked to enough people (through my extensive involvement in civil society) to realise that many Christians are afraid of death. The medical/surgical professions will also seemingly not permit a patient to die, without some attempted intervention, no matter how close to death, or how old, the patient is. So we hear or read.
One of my medicos explained that this approach arose from a misinterpretation of the Hippocratic Oath: ‘Save lives at all costs’ has tended to replace, in many instances, the most desirable ‘Do no harm.’
In the institutional residences for the aged, many (mostly women) are kept alive, reportedly with minimal contact with family. In one of these residences, which I visited sporadically, I saw a row of elderly women sitting in a row against a wall, just sitting, most with their heads down.
Then there is the repeat request by institutional representatives of the medical profession for parliamentary approval to over-ride Apprehended Health Care Directives (or other legal documents of similar intent). My wish not to be resuscitated is sought to be ignored by some medicos (and the odd hospital administrator) who wish to play God, while denying me my legal rights.
When my chances of living a meaningful life are significantly low, I do not wish my future to be decided by one who may not accept that death has a role in life. Institutional care is no substitute for independent living in a nation ruled by the ethos of individualism. As it is, about one third of the aged (the senior citizens) live alone in Australia.
As well, in this secular nation, we should not be controlled by the politics of any religion. Why deny death at all costs?