LIVING & DYING
"Iatrogenesis is the causation of a disease, a harmful complication, or other ill effect by any medical activity, including diagnosis, intervention, error, or negligence".
First used in this sense in 1924, the term was introduced to sociology in 1976 by Ivan Illich, alleging that industrialized societies impair quality of life by over medicalizing life itself.
Iatrogenesis may thus include mental suffering via medical beliefs or a practitioner's statements.
He went on "Man's consciously lived fragility, individuality and relatedness make the experience of pain, sickness and of death an integral part of his life.
The ability to cope with this trio autonomously is fundamental to his health.".
Each and everyone of us must deal with all three experiences of life and not simply reach for the pain killer and the sickness remedy as a quick fix, but as a natural part of aging until death.
Woody Allen is rumoured to have said "I don't mind dying - I just don't want to be there when it happens!
Whichever way you look at it - death comes to all of us and most of us die from around about the age of 65.
And we have all of us been aware of death and dying since we were young.
And yet society is so collectively fearful of death.
Each persons own death particularly of course and of the onset and getting through their grief of the dying of others close to them.
My Father died in his sleep at the age of 86 - which is not a bad way to go.
I felt the swelling up of a natural emotion with the quick intake of my breath on the news in a telephone call from South Africa.
Interestingly, I went through pretty much the same range of feelings that Kubler-Ross writes abut when being informed of our own impending deaths - see below.
I burnt a candle for weeks afterwards, as I do on the news of all family, friends and our animals dying or in the process of doing so.
But I didn't grieve.
I was pleased that my Dad passed away so peacefully.
I was happy for him.
When my younger sister died so tragically of pancreatic cancer, I felt intense sorrow as I was deeply saddened by her totally unexpected passing is such a painful manner.
I was also unable to see her before she died - which I regret.
My upbringing in SA along with my immersion in Zen has taught me to move on in Life.
And so it was here.
Acceptance came quickly and I let her go.
And every year on the day of her death Katy and I tie a ribbon on the tree where we spread her ashes and remember her, contentedly.
We are pretty good with the beginning of our lives in most modern societies which provide hospital facilities and after care to new babies and their Mothers and families.
There is something magical about a newborn.
A new life in the making.
Watching this new human grow, flourish and hopefully thrive in what is still a fragile world of suffering is to hope they reach adulthood safely and intact that will allow them to enter into their world of work and move on to raising their own families and all that that entails.
For the next 30 years or so.
And then they find themselves in their 50's going on 60's and suddenly, so suddenly, death is on the horizon.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in On Death and Dying examines the attitudes of the dying and the factors that contribute to society's anxiety over death.
She closely looks at the five stages of death - denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - and how the dying and living deal with them.
We can see why this may happen as a defence or coping mechanism that people use who have not yet found acceptance.
I had found acceptance many years ago practicing meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition where one of the first things you are taught is to accept or even embrace your death, much as the Samurai were required to do each day during their Zen or Meditation training. (See Just Sitting)
One day as an exercise and 20 minutes into a meditation I reflected on her 5 stages.
Denial never stood a chance - we all die. That's it.
For Anger I found it was interesting to paraphrase Aristotle's Challenge:
“Anyone can become angry – that is easy.
But to be angry for your not unexpected demise
to the right degree, at the right time,
for the right purpose and in the right way
– that is not easy”.
It may not be easy but when you reflect on it in this way - anger resides.
Bargaining with family, or friends and colleagues or even your Gods wouldn't have pacified me - without knowing the timing............
Depression or sadness and melancholy anyone could understand emoting pathos in the meaning of a permanent "Goodbye" to loved ones. And letting them go is difficult but letting you go is possibly more so.
Acceptance in this context became an island of calm for me because acceptance was the only reality on the table.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is a contemporary spiritual masterpiece and source of sacred inspiration that interprets Tibetan Buddhism for the West.
Sogyal Rinpoche presents a radically new vision of living and dying.
He shows how to go beyond our fear and denial of death to discover what it is in us that survives death and is changeless.
And he uses Meditation as a primary tool to do so.
"Life itself is a sexually transmitted condition with a 100% mortality" wrote R. D. Laing.
If more people considered the implications of this statement, then more would come to accept the reality of its inevitability.
To break sway from the medical perspective of control over most peoples' health it is critical to break out of the normal patient stereotype.
in 1983 on the offer of treatment for my follicula lymphoma I wrote:
"I don’t want to fight it their way
I want to fight it my way
And this takes courage".
The single virtue that most people lack when it comes to their own life threatening illness.
I was lucky.
I dd and still do have courage.
But mostly I just didn't trust these people to be fully and honestly responsible for my future healthcare.
That was and still is my responsibility.
AND THE SAME GOES FOR DYING.
Paraphrasing Aristotle once again - it is our right to die at the right time, in the right way and for the right reason and we should legally prepare for this event with advanced decisions and end of life statements in place.
It is our time to die and we should prepare for it and take control of it.
So how do you prepare for the next guaranteed thing that will happen to you after you are born into this world?
Well, happily in the majority of cases if you have been born into a modern nation it will be at least four decades down the line before you even begin to think about an answer to this question.
But it would be prudent to consider way before this time how you are going to deal with what billions like you feel about impending death - which is a visceral fear of dying.
Learning to let go of the fear of dying.