“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.”
-Pope John Paul II
Most of us wake up each morning without a worry about death. But for some, death as a painful truth begins to haunt them prematurely through incurable, progressive, life threatening conditions, leaving them with nothing but needless suffering until the very end.
The average life span of man has considerably increased, from 15 years as an early cave man to the current average of 80 years in a developed nation. While we have managed to fight our way with the microorganisms, which cause the communicable diseases, we have miles to go to completely understand non-communicable diseases such as cancer which plague man especially in his later years adding to disability and loss of quality of life. These non-communicable disabling diseases seem to be on the rise owing to a large number of epigenetic and environmental factors. However, the same technology of the modern science which has bestowed us with longer lives hasn’t yet rescued us from the case of prolonged suffering!
This raises a dilemma that shakes the foundation of medical ethics as well-Should we allow pain until we have found a better antidote than death? Or is pain unnecessary and best be terminated with death, even if is unnatural? Should we then terminate life which is not able to live to the fullest? Should death be in the hands of man who has not created it? Can doctor or family play God? Is pain a necessary karmic way to reach the unknown? How did the honorable Supreme Court of India reach it’s judgment regarding passive euthanasia?
Before we even attempt to answer such difficult questions, it is only apt that we begin by understanding what is palliative medicine? What is death? What is pain? Clearly, the answers to these questions wont be found through google searches. This needs a journey, guided through experts of the field and deliberations with peers and most importantly, a journey, inward.
In this 24th edition of Lexicon titled- ‘The Cloak That Matters’, we shall together journey the history of Palliative medicine, discuss death with dignity, ethics, effective communication and meet with experts who have dedicated themselves to the care of terminally ill and try addressing not only physical but also psychosocial and spiritual aspects of‘end-of-life care’.
Thanks to everyone who have agreed to be a part of this edition, especially to our young readers!