In a recent New York Times op-ed titled “Death and Budgets,” columnist David Brooks points to the example of a writer named Dudley Clendinen to illustrate what Brooks apparently feels is the correct way to face death, especially from that which we call terminal illness. Dudley Clendinen is sixty-six years-old, and has a diagnosis of A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He wrote a piece himself for the Times called “The Good Short Life” in which he explains his decision to forgo a variety of treatments that could keep him alive for some additional years, albeit in a progressively more disabled state. Essentially he says that he is plumping to let the disease take its course, and he thinks it likely that he will die from aspirational pneumonia some time in the next several months (although he is not opposed to giving himself a shove into death by some other means if he deems it necessary).
David Brooks moves quickly to presenting Clendinen’s story as a valuable “backdrop to the current budget mess.” Health care costs being such a big part of it, he argues, wouldn’t it be great if everyone had the same attitude to death as Dudley Clendinen? Our society would save so much money by not having to provide great quantities of medical care to the elderly and terminally ill, when all it does is provide them with a few more years of living—and diminished living at that. His argument is really just that simple. Continue reading Mistaken and Dangerous: David Brooks on “Death and Budgets”