A Sidekick's Blog

Cruelty and Greed Disguised as Compassion | December 5, 2014

A lot of presuppositions form the basis of policies, both private and public, regarding the care of the very aged, especially when the patient has been declared mentally incompetent and decision-making for that person is in the hands of someone else. I speak from years of first-hand experience with this, and with heartfelt compassion for those without a voice. This will also be very blunt and brutal, because I honestly don’t know any other way to say it. If you’re easily offended, read no further.

Not a single person I know – including many nurses, physicians, therapists and caregivers – would wish to end up in a nursing home or even their own homes being kept artificially alive (medically, biologically) and in pain (mental, emotional, social, and physical) for years on end strictly for the financial benefit of their caregivers. A couple of generations ago, before the aged had all the present day entitlements to government-funded lifetime annuities and medical benefits, families cherished their elders and acted in their best interests, as a rule. There was no financial incentive to force a loved one to live far beyond his or her ability to enjoy life.

But these days, there is a ton of money to be made from the ever-increasing medical needs of an ever-growing population of powerless, voiceless, helpless elders whose misery is extended for many years beyond nature’s intent. Thousands of dollars are paid for tests, scans, therapy, drugs, and doctor visits, all designed to extend life, prolonging the increasingly profound suffering of the elderly who have long outlived their capacity to enjoy life or even to share their wisdom and memories. This is the new face of “compassion,” but in I dare say the majority of cases, all these therapies and tests and drugs serve only to keep money rolling in to caregivers and medical providers from pensions, insurance companies and government agencies. Where the patient is competent to make his or her own medical decisions, many request only comfort measures and refuse treatment for conditions like high cholesterol, blood pressure problems, cancer, heart disease, or any life-extending therapies. But in cases where the patient is declared incompetent, “compassion” means keeping the dollars flowing in to caregivers and medical providers.

Sometimes you can’t make so-called caregivers see compassion in any other way. “This is how it works, there’s no other way, and curse you for your heartless suggestions. Do you want dear old Grampa to die?!”

I believe Grampa wants to die, now that he can’t feel anything but pain and loss and loneliness and sorrow. I believe he wouldn’t want to be remembered this way, but as the strong, humorous, vigorous man he was before multiple strokes and heart attacks left him like this, barely able to speak or chew food. So yes, dammit, I want him to die, to go be with Jesus, finally to rest and be free of pain and sorrow. That makes me “the bad guy.” The “compassionate” thing to do is to keep him alive and in pain for as long as that pension and Medicare money lasts.

Bovine excrement. Sorry, that’s just a boatload of crap. You redefine compassion to your own purpose, so you can pay off that nice car, three computers (Really. Three), and your fancy new flat-screen TV you’ve purchased with Grampa’s pension money. His dignity and even your own marriage apparently doesn’t mean as much to you as keeping that money coming in, and I cannot bear to stand by and watch anymore. You justify extending the agony of a helpless person, calling it compassion, but I call it greed. Cruel, wicked greed.

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