In any discussion of end of life issues the role of modern medicine is paramount. While no one can be critical of the huge advances in medical science over recent decades - improving beyond measure the length and quality of our lives – there is also a flip side. In contrast to previous generations, we are now far more likely to die of slower, debilitating conditions that are associated with old age and illness. Yet we are also more likely to be kept alive through an increasingly sophisticated array of medical technologies.
A longer life can be a wonderful thing, but should we be forced to live on, if we come to a point where we have simply had enough? Surely the act of balancing one’s quality of life against the struggle of daily living in our later years or in illness, should be each individual’s to arbitrate.
Our Ageing Population
A century ago when life expectancy was approximately 25 years less than it is today, few people had the opportunity to reflect on how they might die. Then people were much more likely to die quickly with little warning. For example, one hundred years ago infectious disease was common. People considered themselves lucky if they were still alive in their mid 50s. The widespread introduction of public health measures such as sewerage, water reticulation, good housing, and of course the introduction of modern antibiotics have all played a part in greatly reducing the toll of infectious disease.