Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Health: Ways we die

Here's an entry in the "New Old Age" blog at the New York Times. A geriatric medicine specialist asks people: "How many of you expect to die?" Slowly, reluctantly, the hands go up.

Well, there are only a few ways most people die, and none is ideal. You can die from cancer, probably relatively young but having lived an otherwise pretty healthy life. You can die from heart or lung disease, on average ten years older than the typical cancer death, but after sporadic serious illness -- ups and downs -- for a number of years. Or you can live into your eighties and beyond, and die of 'frailty and dementia': that's what's left for those who elude avoid cancer and heart/lung failure. It's a long slow decline.

I understand the urge to cure cancer, end heart disease and forestall other major organ failures. But we seldom ask what we are saving ourselves for: No one cheats death.

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