“Death is not a medical problem to be resolved”

Publié le 23 May, 2016

“We doctors cannot prescribe a ‘good death’” is the title given to a publication by Seamus O’Mahony, Consultant Physician at Cork University Hospital in Ireland.

Sickened by the monthly publication of a new “well-meaning report on deaths and end-of-life care” and struck by the “secularity and individualistic comments”,Dr. O’Mahony voiced his concerns in the light of an alarming fact. He denounced the increasing number of governmental organisations that argue over the “cleanliness of death” and who have missed the real issue: assisted suicide and the anticipated directives are both the symptom of a deeper malaise (obsession with personal autonomy and control) and a distraction “overlooking real problems”. No regulation or report can rekindle the compassion which is cruelly lacking in terms of patient management.

Death is now medicalised. In Great Britain or Ireland, 50% of patients die in hospital. Society has handed over the responsibility for end-of-life care and placed the “unsurmountable issues” surrounding the end of a person’s life firmly in the hands of hospitals unable to meet the requirements of the dying. Moreover, some patients and their families have unrealistic expectations when it comes to medicine and their frustration may lead them to take legal measures. In this respect, the “judicialisation” of death is just as worry as its “medicalisation”. Doctors and nurses have become the scapegoats for our poor understanding of the way in which we die.

According to this doctor, there is a “perception” and even “a consensus” that death is a problem for doctors to resolve, that a “good death” is something that doctors should be capable of prescribing, just as they prescribe a course of antibiotics, for example. But “our needs are spiritual, not medical”. We would be “happier if we stopped thinking of our bodies as machines and abandoned our fantasy for control and immortality”.

The Guardian, Seamus O’Mahony (22/05/2016)

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