Until the early 20th century, death was as natural a part of life as birth. It was expected, accepted and filled with ritual. No surprises, no denial, no panic. When its time came, the steps unfolded in a familiar pattern, everyone playing his part. The patients were kept clean and as comfortable as possible until they drew their last breath.
But in this age of technological wizardry, doctors have been taught that they must do everything possible to stave off death. We refuse to wait passively for a last breath, and instead pump air into dying bodies in our own ritual of life-prolongation. Like a midwife slapping life into a newborn baby, doctors now try to punch death out of a dying patient. There is neither acknowledgement of nor preparation for this vital existential moment, which arrives, often unexpected, always unaccepted, in a flurry of panicked activity and distress.
We physicians need to relearn the ancient art of dying. When planned for, death can be a peaceful, even transcendent experience. Just as a midwife devises a birth plan with her patient, one that prepares for the best and accommodates the worst, so we doctors must learn at least something about midwifing death.
Oggi voglio riportare questo passaggio da un articolo, uscito recentemente sul NY Times, di Jessica Nutik Zitter, medico presso il Alameda County Medical Center di Oakland, California.
L’autrice racconta la sua esperienza con malati in condizioni critiche, di come ha imparato a provare a salvarli e di come ha deciso di imparare ad accompagnare la morte. Mi ha colpito per la maniera in cui umanità e competenza riescono a rafforzarsi mutualmente, nell’esperienza più difficile.
In questi tempi di fiducia mistica nella tecnologia, da una parte, e di rifiuto della nostra fallibilità, credo che venga un insegnamento enorme, di modestia e eccellenza insieme.