Having lived a full life and nearing your final years, if given the choice to live one year at home with your family and a reasonable quality of life versus several years in a hospital hooked up to machines with a very poor quality of life – which would you choose? It’s a personal question and a tough topic.
In a piece last week entitled “The Cost of Dying”, CBS’ 60 Minutes boldly ventured into this very issue.
Quoting the report:
“Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives – that’s more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education. And it has been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government with few or no questions asked.”
According to the report, 18 to 20 percent of Americans spend their last days in an ICU and despite most Americans’ wish to spend their last days at home with family, 75 percent die in a hospital or a nursing home. These are sobering statistics.
Sadly, the generation facing this very question today is most likely healthier at their age than future generations that will be approaching this same phase of life in the next 20-30 years. Unfortunately, Americans are sick and we know it. A decadent lifestyle of nutrient-deficient food, lack of exercise, and a toxic environment has finally caught up with us, only to be patched up with a plethora of pharmaceutical drugs. The headlines are full of statistics and fear about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, hypertension, prostate cancer and the swine flu. A cure for each of these is an admirable goal and there should be a plan for worst case scenario, but wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on preventing the disease? If prevention was assured, there would be less need for the cure. Instead of preventing disease, Americans are working feverishly backwards to fix the damage that’s already been done.
It is assumed that most Americans would like to be active up until the day they take their last breath, but with our current health model of sickcare rather than true healthcare, that will most likely not be the case. Quoting from Dr. Elliott Fisher of the 60 Minutes’ piece, “The way we set up the system right now, primary care physicians don’t have the time to spend an hour with you, see how you respond, if they wanted to adjust your medication. So the easiest thing for everybody up the stream is to admit you to the hospital. I think 30 percent of hospital stays in the United States are probably unnecessary given what our research looks like.”
Watch the sobering report by 60 Minutes entitled “The Cost of Dying” and weigh in. What do you think?