Is Extending Our Parents' Lives Heroic or Cruel?

A magazine cover story calls their drawn-out lives "human carnage"

by Gary Drevitch • Next Avenue
hospital bed image
Photograph: iStock

There are two beliefs many of us hold as gospel: One, we should do all that we possibly can to develop medical treatments that prolong life, and, two, we should do all that we possibly can to care for our parents through their final years.

But what if both of those beliefs are wrong, and simply prolong suffering?

That's the dilemma posed in a compelling cover story in New York magazine by journalist Michael Wolff, who normally writes about the media industry. In the gut-wrenching article, he tells of the seemingly unending decline of his mother, the strain it puts on him and his siblings, and the disturbing conclusions it leads him to draw about our health-care system and our society.

Wolff's mother, 86, suffers from severe dementia. For the past 18 months, she has not been able to "walk, talk, or to address her most minimal needs," Wolff writes. "What I feel most intensely when I sit by my mother’s bed is a crushing sense of guilt for keeping her alive. Who can accept such suffering — who can so conscientiously facilitate it?"

The answer: Almost all of us.

Click here for the rest of the story on Next Avenue

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