Have you ever seen this show NOVA? I hate it so much I want to make its head explode with my mind. As a voiceover artist I have to say it's got the most insultingly smug, patronizing voiceovers I've ever heard, clearly meant to 'humor' elderly viewers the way my old friend Alan used to patronize the old folks at the home where he worked. My dad was watching NOVA when I visited him at the hospital. One episode was all about growing ears on mice and how that might lead to even longer life spans than we already have. Oh thank the lord, why should anyone have to die?
I love my dad and dreaded his passing, but at the same time I applauded his decision to refuse a $200,000. enzyme treatment that would postpone his death (cancer) by a few months... maybe. Regardless of its dubious benefits, he could have received the treatment, paid for entirely by Medicare, AKA by you, me, and our unborn grandchildren, but decided he didn't want to burden us just to suffer a few more months. He couldn't in good conscience waste our money. The doctors were pissed! No doubt they had boat payments to make. But I thanked him on behalf of future generations.
Now my family comes from a long line of cynical English and Germans, drunks, artists, witches, and WW1 German draft dodgers -- all sneerers at, and runners from, death. My great-great-great-great-great-etc. Aunt Mary Easty was hung as a witch in the 17th century Salem. (Her family kept excellent records, all now in my possession). When I was born the earth's population was 3.75 billion. Now it is twice that amount. When I was a kid, even at that relatively low number we worried about overpopulation more than we do now. So I'm always a little outraged when some documentary worries that we might lose a few billion in a plague or nuclear war. Good lord that would be great, After all, we have plenty to spare.
Three things run in my family: addiction, wit, and gallows humor. My great grandmother on my dad's side lived to 107 but practically deaf and blind, joking about wishing she'd been a smoker, as the last 20 years of her life were very very boring without being able to read or even hear books on tape (she could still talk in a perfectly measured and eerily intelligent voice). My grandmother on the same side is now closing in on 100, and is in the same boat... why didn't she smoke?
Why? Why do we prize longevity even at the cost of quality? My grandmother joked with the staff of her retirement home about going off her meds and dying a natural death and they put her on round the clock suicide watch. God forbid a woman of 98 years young even consider checking out so soon!
Social Security Reform Bill Encourages Americans To Live Faster, Die Younger
Now you might think its a Hippocratic thing but I know firsthand a lot of this comes from Medicare scamming. I used to volunteer at an alcohol clinic and if you were on medicaid, they wouldn't let you leave. They charged each patient $70 per 45 minute session of group therapy, each (in 2001) so considering there were on average 20 people per session and ten sessions or so a day that's $1,400. they made off medicare through making 20 drunks hang out with me for 45 minutes (I was not making any money) in a crumbling institutional white room. So while the medical industry sucks our future up their snouts to keep the elderly alive for a few more miserable years, NOVA cheerfully assures them death is in the process of being eradicated so we can all live... forever, on Medicare and government pensions... until the retirement age has to be raised to 90 and the voting bloc majority is so old they vote to enforce a mandatory 11 PM bedtime for the entire nation.
The only way we're going to keep health costs and pensions going in this country is if people die at a reasonable age. Otherwise -- your kids and grand kids will inherit nothing. So they buy nothing, because they're too broke from paying your Medicare bill and government pension. Why rack up another half a million dollars on Uncle Sam's tab just to keep shuffling along for another miserable 20 years? I'm not saying institute death panels, but let the old folks die with dignity if they want. I think some of them, like my granny, would dig the chance to attend their own funeral like they were Huck Finn or Robert Duvall.
In closing, fear not death. For death is part of life. But fear doctors, for they love to take our money, promising to stave off the scythe for a few more months no matter what the cost to your children ... do the math and set my granny free!
POST-SCRIPT: I wrote this shortly before my dad died and was saving it til now to make sure I felt the same way after a year. He died one year ago today, just a few months shy of his 70th birthday. He told me about the Medicare $200,000. enzyme treatment he had refused during the last night we spent together while watching, interestingly enough, Long Day's Journey into Night. My dad and I, watching old movies, love you pops! And I even got to say it before he passed, bonus.... RIP, James Kuersten. 1943-2012