Late last week I was a member of a panel at a symposium at the University of Kansas School of Nursing sponsored by the Osler Society of Greater Kansas City on end-of-life issues.
It was my task to give people the sad news that America is a death-denying culture in which lots of Americas somehow think death is optional.
The job of all of us, including future and current physicians and nurses, is to help people think about how they want to die and to prepare for that inevitability. It was also my task to talk just a bit about the role of faith communities in all of this.
The very day we gathered the Pew Research Center released the results of a sobering study that indicated we are not making progress with this task. (Here's Cathy Lynn Grossman's story about it for Religion News Service.)
As the press release about this said, "most Americans say there are some circumstances in which doctors and nurses should allow a patient to die. At the same time, however, a growing minority says that medical professionals should do everything possible to save a patient’s life in all circumstances."
A growing number? Yes. In 1990 just 15 percent of those responding to this survey wanted doctors to do absolutely everything possible to save people in end-of-life situations, whereas today that percentage has more than doubled to 31.
What this ultimately means is that people are pushing for expensive and non-beneficial treatments to keep people alive for a matter of hours or days. It's not just a terrible waste of medical resources but it's also a way of making sure that the final hours and days of someone's life are more -- not less -- full of pain and anxiety.
Communities of faith have to take the lead in this matter and educate people about end-of-life matters and how to prepare families for that.
My own congregation will be offering exactly that sort of thing this spring in one of our regular end-of-life series of classes. I hope yours is working on something similar.
(Panelists pictured here: from left, were moderator Dr. Jerry Burton; Elaine McIntosh, CEO of Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care; Dr. Richard Butin, and me.)
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ANTI-JEWISH NONSENSE CONTINUES
Just when you think that maybe Americans are pretty much done with anti-Judaism and the old and discredited idea that Jews are guilty of deicide, up pops the slander again. This time it was in a Christian publication put out by students at Harvard University. It was an anonymous piece written by someone who converted from Judaism to Christianity. Sounds like that convert has a lot left to learn.