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The Number of My Days by George Merrill

About 2,500 years ago, a psalmist posed this concern to God: “Lord, make me know mine end and the measure of my days.” In Talbot County, where roughly 35 percent of residents are retirees and well up in years, I’ll bet many are thinking the same thing. As an octogenarian, I know I am. Three score and ten once was considered a long life. Today that figure is conservative. Four score and ten and going is more like it. There’s sad news and good news. The sad news is that for many of us elderly, our days are numbered, closer to the end than the beginning. Nobody likes that thought. What complicates the matter is the aversion that doctor, patient and family often feel in discussing end-of-life issues openly. Such discussions are as disturbing for physicians as they are for patients and their families. When an incurable illness occurs, and patient, family and physician cannot entertain any other thought than a cure, where does the conversation go from there? In a remarkable book, The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care, physician

Angelo E. Volandes invites readers to address end-of-life issues as issues of living, not attempts to forestall dying. In this paradigm, medicine is not called upon to cure what it can’t, but to mobilize its extensive resources to assist the patient to live in reasonable comfort and personal meaning for the remainder of life. “The book,” writes Volandes, “stems from my belief that one toxic side effect of 51

Tidewater Times March 2016  
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