Several of you wrote me wonderfully kind notes about my mother’s death. Many who didn’t know Mum seemed to grasp her essence, which was heartwarming to me. She was not your standard-issue mother, but, of course, nobody’s is. Over the last weeks I have learned something about the American health care system and the bureaucracy of death, on which I will undoubtedly pontificate in the months ahead. I learned that people matter. Mum’s doctor was more than her medical professional. He was her friend, and he made house calls. And when staff members of all levels at her assisted-living residence embraced me in tears this week, I knew that people really cared for my mother.
The health system is a mess because too often it crushes that caring, and people don’t seem to be its focus. When Mum was in the hospital, I said to my sister, “we seem to be the least important people in the process . . . except for the patient.” To those who say, if you think it’s bad now, wait for Obamacare, I say, I can’t wait for Obamacare because there is something inherently incompatible between corporate demands and patient needs. Our lives should not be “measured out with coffee spoons.”
As Hospice shows. At every step of the last days, the people of this extraordinary organization were sensitive to the dignity of Mum’s life and the dignity of her death – something that seems too often absent in the political debates about when life begins and how it ends.