Dance with Death: Pinata Party with Ensure

2011,

Graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper,

47” x 40.5”

Themes that seemed to cry out for transmutation into this piece

1) Our society’s obsession with prolonging life –

Despite the abysmal quality of life elderly humans often experience toward the end (dementia, incontinence, amputations, decubitus ulcers, etc.)

Despite an unwillingness to implement and fund healthcare systems that would afford more humane treatment of the elderly

2) That our survival is mediated by access to high tech medical devices and care like dialysis, pacemakers, respirators, etc., and vast industries have evolved to profit from keeping people alive a bit longer –

The pharmaceutical industry profits to the tune of tens of billions of dollars annually on medications for the elderly and terminally ill (Abbott alone grosses over 20 billion annually, primarily for its elder liquid nutrition products)

Nursing homes, medical device and equipment companies, for-profit hospices, etc. are designed to extract maximum dollars from the dying process, and the longer people remain alive the longer they require costly care

3) Within this last year the UN announced we’d reached the 7 billion mark. Our planet is struggling with the current population yet life expectancy continues to expand “The population of the “old-old” (85+) will quadruple over the next few decades as the large baby boomer cohort reaches these advanced ages”

4) The disproportionate distribution of healthcare $$. Of the current trillion dollar + annual healthcare budget in the US, a disproportionateshare increasingly is attributable to the care of elderly patients shortlybefore their deaths. This expands the older statistics compiled by Lubitz and Prihoda, andLubitz and Riley , that 6% of Medicare recipients 65 yr of ageand older who died in 1978 and 1988 accounted for 28% of all costsof the Medicare program. In the same two years, 77% of the Medicaredecedents’ expenditures occurred in the last year of life, 52%of them in the last 2 mo, and 40% in the last month. Inpatientexpenses accounted for over 70% of the decedents’ totalcosts.

5) (And, incidentally, as referenced with Wyeth’s Christina’s world, the good ol’ times before all these medical advances were probably not so wonderful either.)

6) Notwithstanding all of the above, most of us when confronted with death will still opt for full medical intervention to prolong our dances with death as long as possible.