Medicine has become a pseudo-religion; our patients must be gently encouraged into apostasy and renunciation... [We have all] been enslaved by the medical–industrial complex, and it is time we rebelled. Society needs to reach a new accommodation with old age and death.
Seamus O’Mahony, Can Medicine Be Cured (2019)
Here is the silver lining: when you better understand your fragile life and the limitations of medicine, you will avoid getting sucked into a lot of useless nonsense.
By 60, most people have some coronary artery disease; by 70, most have cancers growing somewhere. Nortin Hadler states the cold facts: “Any claim to a science that offers a path to longevity beyond eighty-five years is fatuous… over 85, you are off-warranty.” My pathologist friend Chris Gonzales adds, “something will get you, eventually.” He cuts up dead people for a living, so he knows.
Worrying about your lifespan or expecting medicine to save you will not bring you peace. Instead, focus on your mission and the tasks. Be philosophical about your health as it declines.
At the end of life, some people can become more grateful rather than more afraid because they have learned to treasure each moment. Max Ehrmann wrote, “Gracefully surrender the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.”
My friend Dana understood this. He taught me what he could over his final year, and I loved him dearly. He had coronary artery disease with congestive heart failure, and for months, we knew he might die.
He had always been optimistic, but during this period, he ignored all negativity and told me he felt better and better. He knew he had no time for regrets, complaints, whining, or worry. I realized later that we are in the same position as Dana every day of our lives.
Support the show