Peace at the hour of death is one of the greatest blessings that God can give. Death can be very terrible, but peace can transform it. Sister Monica Joan received no intrusive medical treatment, no drugs, no investigations into the cause of the stroke, no attempts to prolong her life or to delay her death. She received loving nursing care from her Sisters and was able to die in piece. This is the perfect end.
Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End
“Death is freedom”, – said a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and an advocate for women who birth as they please, free from obstetric violence of hospitals and patriarchal medicine. The person asked to remain anonymous as a precaution from persecution, ridicule, harassment, and threats from the medical professionals.
A succinct idea that is so ingenious and powerful, it sends mobs of internet users into rage-filled convulsive fits. To decline salvation of medical care? To die? This is not a rephrasing of “the price of freedom is death” frequently used in context of fighting against oppression and slavery. Death is freedom means that you are free to depart this world at any age for any reason under any circumstances. This constitutes the very essence of freedom. Death is not the price you pay for anything. Dying in and of itself is an act of revolt in modern day Western society.
It is not surprising that this truth emerged in the realm of birth. The so called “right to die” (we are talking about natural death not suicide or any active measure to end one’s life) becomes very prominent at the time of birth when a newborn cannot die peacefully because she is tortured on the altar of the idea of abstract life (aka “saving lives”).
At the beginning of the 21st century people in the United States fear and fight death at all cost, even if the cost is incomprehensible suffering and torture. Statistics track reduction in deaths from birth to… death as the main measure of medicine’s success. Some even go to the length to affirm that a drug/doctor/test/medicine/insurance/Medicare will prevent death altogether. Death is the ultimate failure of modern medicine. Hence it is a silent and salient assumption that “everything must be done to prolong life”. Prolongation of life is equated with prevention of death for added confusion. Definitions of death have been revised to justify medical torture. Conversations about the inevitability of death in healthcare settings are either non-existent or clumsy, veiled, and vague. A perfect storm of factors leads to futile care of the dying that patient abuse.
The cost of death prevention is staggering. Medicare spending rises with age and peaks at 96, declining slightly at older ages. Spending at age 96 is $16,145, more than double the per capita spending at age 70 ($7,566) (source).
In every society the dominant image of death determines the prevalent concept of health.1 Such an image, the culturally conditioned anticipation of a certain event at an uncertain date, is shaped by institutional structures, deep-seated myths, and the social character that predominates. A society’s image of death reveals the level of independence of its people, their personal relatedness, self-reliance, and aliveness.2 Wherever the metropolitan medical civilization has penetrated, a novel image of death has been imported. Insofar as this image depends on the new techniques and their corresponding ethos, it is supranational in character. But these very techniques are not culturally neutral; they assumed concrete shape within Western cultures and express a Western ethos. The white man’s image of death has spread with medical civilization and has been a major force in cultural colonization.
The image of a “natural death,” a death which comes under medical care and finds us in good health and old age, is a quite recent ideal.3 In five hundred years it has evolved through five distinct stages, and is now ready for a sixth. Each stage has found its iconographic expression: (1) the fifteenth-century “dance of the dead”; (2) the Renaissance dance at the bidding of the skeleton man, the so-called “Dance of Death”; (3) the bedroom scene of the aging lecher under the Ancien Régime; (4) the nineteenth-century doctor in his struggle against the roaming phantoms of consumption and pestilence; (5) the mid-twentieth-century doctor who steps between the patient and his death; and (6) death under intensive hospital care. At each stage of its evolution the image of natural death has elicited a new set of responses that increasingly acquired a medical character. The history of natural death is the history of the medicalization of the struggle against death.4
Ivan Illich. Medical Nemesis. Chapter 5 Death Against Death
Shall I further affirm that death is the best thing that can happen to you when the time has come?
A Course in Dying. Death personified – the many appearances of death