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Do We Really Want to Live Longer?

December 21, 1990

Thank you for the article labeled "How Long Can We Live?" (Dec. 4). It raises a question I believe needs a lot of discussion and debate: Do we really want to live longer?

Recently, I was introduced to the conditions and treatment of the elderly infirm under the current medical system. It is a world of Medicare, HMOs, nursing homes, confusing guidelines, red tape, pain, changing roles, ineffective methods and much finger-pointing as each segment tries to blame others for the system's problems. Each segment seems to be waiting for others to solve the problems, but in the meantime, patients and their families are caught in the middle.

Under this system, individual needs and desires of patients are too often ignored as decision-makers ignore the realities of life and dying in their grand designs of systems, regulations, guidelines and social engineering.

For some of the elderly, the postponement of dying is not a blessing but a curse. It is really sad to see people suffering because our society prefers to ignore realities rather than deal with them.

FLORENCE RICHARDS

Whittier

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