Tuesday, May 24, 2011
As the disease worsens, pain killers work only in the amount suitable for a large horse and often at the expense of consciousness.
I have just read an Associated Press article that characterizes joint replacement patients as whining boomers who demand surgery only to be able to exercise as if they were still forty and to deny aging. The article suggests that they should all accept their pain and limited mobility as a normal part of aging, shut up and use canes, and suck it up as many in previous generations have done when faced with the same limitations.
The article is wrong on so many counts, at best misleading, at worst unethical. First, I fully acknowledge that some do and are exactly as the article claims. The author found them, quoted them, wrote what doctors and others actually think about them. Beyond that...
The article leaves the distinct impression that this is the true and only "face" of joint replacement. Once the ugly truth of these unrealistic boomers is revealed, the next step is easy. Why feel sympathy for their suffering? They are vain and out of touch, after all, self-absorbed and putting too much stress on already limited resources. (There's a familiar theme here.)
The article attributes the need for joint replacement only to obesity, the desire for youth, or the refusal to endure minor discomfort. Obesity rates do not account for all the surgeries, so "fix-me-itis"(as one surgeon calls it) must account for the balance.
Nowhere does the article discuss osteoarthritis as a degenerative disease with many possible causes, many not at all in the sufferer's control. Age alone is not one of the major causes; many seniors well into their eighties and nineties do not have the condition.
The argument to simply endure as previous generations did is ludicrous. Most previous generations didn't have the option of joint replacement.The first ones were done in the late forties. At best, boomers' parents and some of their grandparents could have had the surgery - many have. Our ancestors endured the severe pain and limitation because they had no other choice.
We have choices, but we need more research. As the article points out, we just don't know how more active recipients of joint replacement will fare over the years.
The best way to ensure the reduction of this version human suffering is to treat it with a procedure that we know works. Another false picture of selfish, entitled boomers whose suffering we either discredit or deny doesn't help anyone.
And, as the article points out, for whatever reason, candidates for joint replacement are getting younger every year, so eventually we will need some other rationale than that of fitness-driven boomers.