Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Old and Medical Care

So I read an interesting story yesterday about a woman who was found alive in the rubble of her home in Pakistan two months after the earthquake. After the local villagers found her, she was so unresponsive that they figured she'd die soon anyway, and left her for dead in a tent. Two days later, when an outside medical team arrived, the villagers told them about the woman and the medical team took charge of her. It is possible with a lot of medical care that this woman may return to a normal life.

What struck me about this was the practicality of the villagers. This woman was nearly dead anyway, so they moved on to spending their time and resources on those who could most -- and importantly, for longer term -- benefit.

It made me think of how impractical our medical care system is in America where heavy emphasis is put on keeping old people alive. The entire system is geared toward crisis anyway, rather than toward preventive care. (I have never had a doctor send me a reminder that I was due for an annual physical -- never.) This may be in large part because of how health insurance works in this country -- I'm not sure.

But I've always found it strange that doctors will spend tons of time and resources (tests, etc) on old people but only in a crisis do the same for middle age people. Now, the middle aged person with some minor health issues is going to benefit a lot more, as is that person's family and indeed society as a whole (keeping a worker healthy, etc) from better medical care. But the bulk of aggressive medical care goes to old people. I don't get it.

I'm 51, so its not like I'm some 20-something complaining about old farts. I have just never understood why our medical system is geared in this way. Its non-sensical. For example, why do we give flu shots to the elderly when its a proven fact that giving them to children is a much better way of cutting down on the spread of flu?

Part of it is the bizarre American inability to accept death as a natural part of life. You know, no matter how much you love your parents, when they get into their 80s, they're doing to die soon. You have to accept that. And spending tens of thousands of dollars on medical care at the end of their lives makes no sense. None at all. Not to even mention how it drives up the cost of health insurance. Bizarre.


At 8:45 PM, Blogger Watch 'n Wait said...

So your cut-off date for elderly medical care would be....?

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Leimodnu said...

No cutoff date -- just be reasonable about accepting the end of life. A lot of Americans just don't seem to be able to do that.


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