I've been stunned and amazed at the high quality of the comments on the new NYT blog, the New Old Age. The entries aren't bad, but the comments threads are unreal. I mean, you could just bind them and publish them as a book without further editing and I'd pay $30 for the result. (Which is saying something, considering how I feel about, say, the comments threads on the Freakonomics blog.)
In any event, here's a deliciously morbid entry in the blog:
The title is a quote to a room full of wonky people: How Many of You Expect to Die? Do you want to be old? Want it to be cancer? Chronic heart disease? Emphysema?
Everyone left: you're okay with frailty and dementia, then, right?
R.'s response: how about an accident?
To which I replied, I was _just looking at the numbers_ (see vaoutcomes link above); accidents are pretty rare by comparison. So I toddled back off to that chart and sure enough, heart disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but you can think of it as emphysema, and cancer are far and away the top three). I sat back and thought about it, and scrabbled at that chart, desperately hoping for a better choice. Stroke? *shudder* I mean, I've watched a lot of people go down over the years, most of them old (and I gotta say, dying while old definitively better all 'round than dying while young; recovering from the death of a cousin younger than me is brutally worse than mourning a grandparent in their 80s. Not that either is fun.).
What's left? Pneumonia, I say, to R., who says, "the old man's friend". Really? Yup.
When you're writing your health care directive, and trying to avoid being a dried up shell of your former self, not even aware enough to be miserable, with your offspring in pain all around you, don't just plan for a DNR. Include no-antibiotics-for-pneumonia while you're at it.
Holy cow. The wisdom of the ancients. Er, not so very. Couple hundred years ago, that phrase was coined.