Not every cat has nine lives. And that's OK.

 - 
11/30/2009

There was a reader essay in my local Maine Sunday paper yesterday: a goodbye to a "much-loved" cat. The cat, a 16-year-old Siamese, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

From diagnosis to death: a visit to the emergency vet; an ultrasound to reveal a grapefruit-sized tumor; a visit to a pet ultrasound specialist in New Hampshire; a visit to a veterinary cancer surgeon in Boston; scripts for kitty painkillers and appetite stimulants; a visit to a local veterinary cancer specialist; a holistic veterinarian acupuncturist; and finally a home visiting vet to put the poor thing to sleep—the cat, not its owner.

The cat, old and terminal (it's pancreatic cancer, for crying out loud) was hauled around New England in search of a happy ending that was never going to happen. Granted, it's the owner's right to spend her time and money on her pet however she wants, but honestly. Accept the inevitable already.

When it comes to people, I think many of us do the same thing. On 60 Minutes a few weeks ago there was a story about how patients, their families and the medical establishment just refuse to let people die. And, while those folks are in the process of trying not to die, they are subjected to numerous procedures, tests and specialists. I don't mean to sound heartless, but what a waste of money!

Earlier this year, there was a great hue and cry over "death panels." But, in the health care reform debate, there needs to be an honest discussion about when to let go. It helps no one to prolong pain and suffering and it certainly needs to be considered when talking about taxpayer dollars. Death happens everyday in the private insurance sector as well as for the uninsured. There's no reason the Medicare/Medicaid populations should get a reprieve.

If we are going to extend health care coverage—in any form—to a greater number of people, we have to start controlling costs across the board.

Stay healthy, Bruce.

Theresa Flaherty