Dying well requires spiritual values as much as technology

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By Dr. Scott Morris
The Commercial Appeal
When I was 19 years old, my mother died of ovarian cancer. She was 42. Rather than sitting by her bedside at home or holding her hand in the hospital, I was encouraged to go to the movies, which I obediently did.I was alone, watching a movie, when she drew her last breath. While I know there was nothing I could have done, my absence at her bedside is something I have regretted all my life.
Today, all too often, people spend the last week of their lives in the intensive care unit with a tube stuck down their throat. They are in a room where the fluorescent lights are never turned off, around caregivers who do not know them well enough to love them.
And then they die. It is immoral. Yet the practice continues unabated.
The problem is that our love affair with technology has overpowered our spiritual values. Prolonging life at all costs implies that we’ve done all we can for the person we love by the time they die. But is that true? In the past few years, there has been increasing attention paid to end-of-life health care. Unfortunately, the discussion has primarily focused on the cost of care.
Read the full column in The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn.