Wednesday, December 14, 2011

East of Eden

Whether you take it as revealed truth or allegorical myth there’s something compelling about the argument that we live in a flawed and imperfect world. Perfection is there to be striven for, but it’s unrealistic to expect that we shall get there alone. We allow in our oral histories that transcendence *is* possible, but only to a very few very special individuals, and then generally with the help or agency of some higher power. For the rest of us East of Eden is where we are expected and expecting to remain—in this life at least.

Indeed, if anything just now it feels we’re heading further and further east, away from calm, plenty and fulfilment as each day passes. Perhaps it doesn’t help that it’s winter now for real in Ambridge, after an Autumn so mild half the bulbs at Jest Acres seem to think it’s Spring again, but the old Crystal Ball resembles more a Snow Globe than anything else looking to the next year or two.

In the midst of all this gloom and angst we get a bizarre assertion in the news today. 24,000 deaths a year could be avoided if diabetes were treated better. With a token apology for pedantry, avoided? Really? Now I know modern medicine is pretty hot stuff, but I’m not aware of any innovation potent enough to permit us to avoid death. It’s not clear from the reporting whether this is a verbatim quote of a grandiose claim or just sloppy journalese, but I fear I have to disappoint you all. The best we can attain for now is a deferral, which in the colloquial idiom “ ain’t nothin’" but I fear falls far short of the alleged outcome.

I’m also a little uncomfortable at the assertion that there’s some kind of blame to be attached in each of these 24,000 “un-avoided deaths”. It’s almost certainly true that a great many could be helped to look after their diabetes better and in so doing delay or avert death from this condition, but it is equally the case that a number of them would prefer to be let alone, not seeing a prolonged existence as desirable for any of a number of reasons, some well thought through and some, to external scrutiny apparently frivolous.

I worry that in seeking to target this group of patients for “better” care we risk trampling on their autonomy. This is an increasing trend in all areas of modern patient care, where we are pressed to treat to a target—evidence based for sure, but paying little or no regard to the individual on the receiving end.

This is in no way to suggest that trying to offer better holistic care would be a bad thing, and if by so doing patients can be engaged and encouraged to try a bit harder to reach the targets then this can only be a good thing, but where like Mme. Voizin in Chocolat there are patients who know their choices are unhealthy, but opt to continue to indulge, accepting a shortened rather than an impoverished span, who are we to deny them.


HyperCRYPTICal said...

Merry Christmas Dr Jest - do so miss your (regular) posts!

Anna :o]

PS Hope you got lots of Hobknobs as prezzies!

Doctor Jest said...

Anna, bless you. I do take your point. What can I say. There have been reasons, but all far too mundane and tedious to go into.

(Though one especially bizarre one left me in stiches-- literally, but with no lasting ill effect)

Anyhow I hope I'm sort of back, at least a bit more regularly. I also hope your christmas was all you'd wished and that 2012 will be brilliant.


Dr J