Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dr. Oz suggests he won't operate on people who "stand alone"

Dr. Mehmet Oz, who used to appear on Oprah a lot, and who appears in ABC’s “NY Med” tonight, is also a heart surgeon, made an astonishing statement this evening on “World News Tonight”.

He said that he will not operate on a patient who cannot name at least one other person who loves him or her.  As Jonathan Rauch once wrote, singletons are “accidents waiting to happen”.

I wondered, is this a call for “soap opera style” jealousy?

It is certainly true that, today, a lot can be done medically for people at advanced ages, when in past generations, their passing would have been accepted without a lot of emotion as an inevitable part of the “tree of life”.

I “celebrate” my 69th birthday today. I’ve gotten through life with only one major surgery, that resulting from a freak accident (at age 54).  I would be hard pressed to face Oz’s question, and would wonder, if faced by something major, if it was someone else’s turn.  It’s hard, in the grand scheme of things, to justify challenging life extensions surgeries at advanced age, particularly if one is “funtionable”.

My mother got a triple coronary bypass at age 85, in 1999.  I was shocked that the operation could even be done at that age.  She did well on it and lived to be 97, passing away in 2010, although there was a painful decline for about the last three years.  (The median survival at her age would have been less than 7 years.)  I remained in Minnesota, and (because of a complicated potential "conflict of interest" over my first DADT book) could not have moved back without sacrificing my job (although the market in 1999 was pretty good closer to “home”).  However, Oz’s comment suggests that had he been her surgeon, he might not have been willing to do it if I didn’t move back.

In a technologically more advanced society, many of us are “independent” and emotionally aloof, even from family, particularly if never married.  We’ve evolved a society where people have a great deal of autonomy, enabled by technology; but some of us resist crossing an invisible line in making and keeping emotional attachments, even if we can take care of ourselves as long as “nothing goes wrong.”  With all that is happening, I wonder if we can sustain this. 

It seems as if holding off to find "perfect people" who are "worthy" of intimate attention, is a modern luxury we can no longer afford.  

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