Happy Winter Solstice!

Solstice is my holiday of choice among the array of the end of the year holidays. If you celebrate a different holiday, hurray for you. All I know is I had pie for breakfast!

 

it's snowing

Pain management struggles in the 21st Century

By Tracy Woolrich

According to the American Pain Foundation, there are more than 50 million Americans living with chronic pain. What is unfortunate however is that chronic pain is often improperly treated – or not treated at all. Those with chronic pain will tell you that they feel that there is a war being waged against those who are truly in pain. The answer is to find treatments that work, empower yourself and educate those in the community.

pain-management

As a nurse with more than 30 years of experience I have witnessed more than my share of pain. During my student nurse days I remember the days of “Brompton’s Cocktail”. It originated in London’s Brompton Hospital and was a concoction made with morphine, cocaine, alcohol and chloroform water. It gained popularity in the 1970s through the Hospice movement with support of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. However, with advancements during the 21st Century it no longer exists. I personally am glad, as from what I witnessed it did appear to reduce the patient’s pain however at a cost of the ability to have a level of awareness. The patient would be nearly in a coma from sedation. We have come a long way in the ability to control pain effectively. Obtaining and maintaining a proper dose however is another story.

In 2006, the American Pain Foundation surveyed their members and discovered that over 60 percent experienced breakthrough pain while taking routine pain medications. In addition, 75 percent also suffered from insomnia and depression. Activities of daily living were affected with over 25 percent indicating that even driving a car was too difficult to do.

chronic-painThat organization developed the Pain Care Bill of rights and encouraged patients to take an active position in their treatment plan. In my previous position working with chronic pain patients, I would frequently obtain guides and resource items from them to share with their healthcare providers.
In 2011, the Affordable Care Act required the Institute of Medicine to do a study about pain management. In that study it was reported that more than 100 million Americans are suffering from chronic pain. That is staggering and the highest numbers to date.

Despite the growing number of people that are in pain, the war on drugs rages on and in its path there is a tremendous amount of collateral damage. Patients that are truly in pain suffer, and organizations that become advocates and partners cannot sustain themselves. Regrettably in May 2012, the American Pain Foundation dissolved their organization due to lack of funding. They transferred a good deal of their education to other organizations and support groups in hopes of continuing their cause.

Their Pain Care Bill of Rights was a groundbreaking proposition in my opinion. It was an attempt to empower those in pain to take an active role in their care. One of the key concepts was the right to have your pain reassessed regularly and your treatment adjusted if your pain has not been eased.

Because of society’s drug addicted behavior, there have been more and more restrictions placed that are making it difficult for those in chronic pain to obtain relief. Misguided state and federal policies are restricting access to appropriate medical care for people in chronic pain. It is deterring even the most compassionate medical providers from treating anyone with pain conditions for fear of governmental scrutiny and penalties.

Better ways to manage pain are continually being developed. With relief as the goal, patients usually try various pain management techniques (often in conjunction) before they determine what works best for them. It is a very individual thing and may change over time.

Medications
There is a myriad of available medications that can be prescribed. From over the counter analgesics like NSAIDS (Motrin and Aleve) to Narcotics (Morphine, Hydrocodone, Codeine). While pain medications will assist in reducing the pain they do little to change the cause other than perhaps NSAIDS that may reduce swelling. As time goes on doses are often increased due to tolerance and often there are side effects such as constipation and stomach upset.chronic-pain-management

Exercise
Exercise can assist with pain relief in individuals with arthritis. Yoga, tai chi and water aerobics are all very helpful. Some with Fibro and chronic headaches may find the stretching portion helpful.

Massage
Massage can reduce pain, increase tissue circulation, relax tight muscles and reduce swelling. In addition it can reduce anxiety and depression and help promote a better night’s sleep. Patients with headaches, arthritis and traumatic injuries will find this helpful. Those with Fibro may find it too painful. Cranial-Sacral work or Reiki may be more appropriate.

Biofeedback
This uses a combination of combination of visualization, relaxation, visualization, and feedback from a machine that may help you to gain control of pain. Electrodes are attached to you and plugged into a machine that measures your muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate. In time you are able to control your thoughts and tension and thus reduce pain and anxiety. It is very effective with headaches.

TENS Units
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation uses low voltage electrical stimulation to block pain signals to the brain. This is accomplished through the placement of small electrode patches on the skin that is attached to a portable unit that emits a small electrical charge. It is used for pain in a localized area. Individuals with nerve pain such as diabetic neuropathy or trauma may find this useful.

Meditation / Relaxation
Through the use of guided imagery and meditation techniques, muscles can have reduced tension and general relaxation. Those with all forms of pain will find this helpful especially headaches and nec/back pain.

Deep breathing
Yoga type diaphragmatic deep breathing involved clearing your mind and focusing on slow deep breaths that are rhythmic. This method of breathing involves breathing in and out, slowly, deeply, and rhythmically. It is through its process of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth you can release tension and induce relaxation. All those in pain will find this helpful.

Water Therapy
Warm water baths or hot tubs can be soothing and relaxing for muscle and joint pain. Water aerobics is often easier on the joints and can increase range of motion. Patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia may find this helpful.

Heat
Hot showers or baths, hot packs, heating pads and paraffin wax baths to hands and feet are especially helpful with arthritic pain.

Cold
Cold therapy is a preferred treatment for some people as opposed to heat therapy. Most chiropractors will advice to use cold to reduce swelling and numb the pain to local injuries. Cold compresses or the simple act of wrapping a plastic bag filled with ice cubes, or frozen gel packs can be applied locally. Those with Reynaud’s should avoid the cold.

Pain Management Clinics
Pain clinics are for those who cannot be helped by medical and surgical treatment options by their primary doctors. It usually involves prescription drug management, physical therapy, nerve blocks and relaxation therapy. Often primary care doctors will refer you to such a clinic for pain management if you suffer from chronic pain. This is twofold. It may help to reduce your pain while allowing the attending doctor to eliminate having to explain his pain prescriptions to state and federal agencies!

Support Groups
Sometimes connecting with others that have similar circumstances can not only provide a wealth of information but inspiration to keep going. Only another person experiencing the same level of struggle can understand.

Take home message
Encourage your health-care provider to inform you about the possible causes of your pain, and possible treatments including alternative therapy. Request to have your pain be reassessed regularly and your treatment adjusted if your pain has not improved. Request a pain management referral if your pain does not subside.

Are there other methods you have used to reduce pain? Please leave a comment and explain your experience.
Complete Article HERE!

‘Warehouses for dying people’: Are we prolonging life or prolonging death?

By Peter Whoriskey

The doctor floated through the intensive care unit, white lab coat flapping, moving from room to room, scanning one chart and then another, often frowning.criticalcare_4c1

Unlike TV dramas, where the victims of car crashes and gun shots populate the ICU, this one at Sentara Norfolk General, as in others in the United States, is more often filled with the wreckage of chronic disease and old age.

Of 10 patients Paul Marik saw that morning, five had end-stage kidney disease, three had chronic respiratory ailments, some had advanced dementia. Some were breathing by virtue of machines; others had feeding tubes; a couple were in wrist restraints to prevent them from pulling off the equipment.

For a man at a highly rated hospital surrounded by the technology of medical miracles, Marik sounded a note of striking skepticism: Patients too often suffer in vain attempts to prolong life, he said, because of the mandate to “do everything.” The urge to deploy every last aggressive medical technique, in other words, was hurting people.

“I think if someone from Mars came and saw some of these people, they would say, what have they done to deserve this punishment?” said Marik, gesturing to the surrounding rooms. “People might say we are prolonging life, but we end up prolonging death.”

aggressive end-of-life care3Critics of U.S. health care have long marshaled evidence against the overuse of aggressive end-of-life care, but the idea that many Americans are dying badly — subjected to desperate treatments in ways that are not only expensive but painful and medically futile — has gained currency of late.

This fall, a photogenic 29-year-old with brain cancer made the cover of People magazine with the decision to end her life on her own terms. About the same time, Medicare proposed that doctors be paid for discussing with patients their options for treatment — or not — at the end of life. And on the best-sellers lists is “Being Mortal,” a surgeon’s critique of the way the United States handles decline and death.

In it, author Atul Gawande warns, among other things, that “spending one’s final days in an ICU because of terminal illness is for most people a kind of failure.”

Marik’s long-standing argument, which is notable in part for coming from an ICU doctor, is this: The nation has double or triple as many ICU beds per capita as other Western nations, it spends inordinate amounts of money in the last months of life, and worst of all, this kind of care isn’t what patients want.

His doubts about end-of-life care appear to be widely shared among his ICU colleagues.

A 2013 survey conducted in one academic medical center, for example, found that critical care clinicians believed that 11 percent of their patients received care that was futile; another 9 percent received care that was probably futile, it said.

Marik blames, in part, people’s unwillingness to face up to the inevitable.aggressive end-of-life care2

“Americans not only don’t want to die, they are unwilling to accept the reality of death,” said Marik, who is also a professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School and chief of critical medicine at the school. “Unfortunately, old people get diseases and die.”

It pays to provide treatment

The remedy lies, in part, with hospices, which are hired to take care of patients after they opt out of aggressive end-of-life care.

Amid rapid growth, that industry has been marked by infrequent government inspections and, in places, lapses in quality. But when the service has been properly provided, families sometimes describe it as a godsend, and experts say hospices serve a critical role in the U.S. health system.

A number of factors, economic and personal, keep many patients from enrolling in hospice care, however.

For starters, it pays to keep dying patients undergoing more treatment, according to experts.

“Financial incentives built into the programs that most often serve people with advanced serious illnesses — Medicare and Medicaid — encourage providers to render more services and more intensive services than are necessary or beneficial,” according to Dying in America, a massive report issued in September by the Institute of Medicine.

But strains at a more personal level also keep patients in treatment.

Doctors are reluctant to disappoint a patient with the grim truth, and knowingly or not, keep false hopes alive. Families meanwhile sometimes overestimate the power of modern medicine.

aggressive end-of-life careTake, for example, the use of CPR, the technique that can restart a heart, but which, particularly in the elderly, can result in broken ribs, and even if successful in reviving a patient, may lead to a much-diminished quality of life.

“Have you ever seen it done on television?” Marik asks, rolling down a corridor with a class of students behind him. “They all wake up right away. But in real life, only about 5 to 10 percent of people — if they’re over 70 — leave the hospital alive.”

Indeed, a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine an analysis of popular shows like “ER,” showed that two-thirds treated by CPR survived until discharge.

“When CPR became widespread in the ’60s, it wasn’t considered ethical to perform it on people who are unlikely to recover,” Marik said. “Now it’s done all the time, regardless of the consequences.”

‘A warehouse for the dying’

Marik has been making his argument in published papers at least as far back as 2006, and his criticism echoes others in the field. An ICU doctor in Gawande’s book, for example, complains that she is running “a warehouse for the dying.”

“We’re kind of powerless to change the system — this is what society expects of us and what we are legally required to do,” Marik said. “But many clinicians are frustrated.”

Nurses, who interact with patients more, may be just as adamant about the issue. They see patients grimacing as they clean wounds around tubes into the lungs or stomach; they see confused patients trying to remove breathing equipment; they treat the bed sores of patients immobilized for long periods.

“There are cases where you honestly feel like you are just causing more harm or pain to the patient and you wonder if their family really understands what’s going on,” said Karen Richendollar, a nurse at the intensive care unit at Sentara Leigh Hospital here.

Surveys of intensive care nurses at 14 ICUs in Virginia, published in 2007 in the journal Critical Care Medicine, found that the leading cause of moral distress arises from the pressure to continue aggressive treatment in cases where the nurses do not think such treatment is warranted.

“The distress comes when there is no hope that whatever we are going to do will provide any different outcome,” said Becky Devlin, the supervisor in the ICU here. “The patient is going to die anyway, and we are just prolonging things. That’s where the distress comes in.”

For example, Devlin and Richendollar said, a woman then in their care was more than 90 years old, with blood pressure and severe kidney problems as well as severe dementia. She was being fed through a tube and had a urinary catheter.

Most imposingly, the woman was breathing via a ventilator, and to prevent her from removing the tube that had been inserted into her mouth and down her throat, restraints tied her hands to the sides of the bed.

“No one can be comfortable with all of that,” Devlin said. “Some of the family members are against further treatment, but there are others that make the decisions and they want to keep going.”

End-of-life planning key

One key way to avoid unwanted treatment, according to experts, is to solicit a person’s preferences for end-of-life care before a crisis arrives.

Toward that end, Sentara, which was ranked this year atop the “Best Hospitals in Virginia” by U.S. News & World Report, joined a coalition of hospitals and agencies on aging that in November launched a program to promote end-of-life planning in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area. It has set up a Web site, asyouwishvirginia.org.End-of-life planning

The program hopes to inspire people to write down their wishes and appoint a health-care advocate to speak for them if they can no longer do so. Organizers will blanket the region’s religious group and elderly care organizations to encourage people to make end-of-life plans.

“Unfortunately when these situations [in the ICU] come up, families will say, ‘Doc, what should I do?’ But that’s not something that doctors can really answer,” said David Murray, director of the group, known as the Advance Care Planning Coalition of Eastern Virginia. “We need to hear from the patients or their representatives — earlier than we do now.”

Take, for example, one of Marik’s patients, a 72-year-old woman who’d come into the emergency room last month after her family found her confused.

Living at home, she’d long been beset by multiple health woes, mainly congestive heart failure and respiratory problems and bipolar disorder. Given her fragility, it would have been natural to have elicited her end-of-life wishes.

No one did, however, and at the hospital last month the hospital staff and the family spent several anguishing days discussing how best to proceed with her care.

Her labored breathing — her inability to draw in oxygen — was the central problem for the doctors. As she struggled for air, the carbon dioxide levels in her blood rose to dangerous levels. She grew anxious as a result, and this only worsened her breathing.

She was moved to the ICU.

The staff placed an oxygen mask called a biPAP around her head, fitting it snugly around her mouth and nose. The device forces oxygen from a hose into the nose and mouth, but it is often uncomfortable.

As a result, the patient was at risk of removing it. So in addition to being sedated, her hands were restrained — tied by cloth belts to the sides of her bed.

She could be heard that Monday calling out, at times, unintelligibly.

“Take me, Jesus,” she shouted at one point.

She wasn’t the only one bothered by the arrangement.

“The nurses and I were really uncomfortable — this poor little old lady,” Marik said. “She was an elderly demented lady with chronic end-stage lung disease. . . . We were subjecting her to a lot of pain and indignity with very little potential for gain. We shouldn’t be forced into that kind of situation, but we often are.”

By Wednesday, the hospital’s palliative medicine team met with family members, and in the coming days, the patient’s sister and daughter decided to forgo aggressive treatment and opt for measures meant primarily to keep her comfortable.

The uncomfortable mask and the wrist restraints came off. Her vitamins and cholesterol drugs were stopped. She was given medicine for her anxiety, which family members said had been a long-running source of trouble for the patient.

The patient was also prescribed morphine, a drug sometimes avoided until the end of life, but one that relieves pain and calms breathing. Nurses were instructed to give her morphine when her breaths exceeded 20 per minute.

Placed under hospice care, she was sent to a nursing home the next Monday.

There, the patient seemed to rally, regaining the ability to interact with family members. The color returned to her face. She even said she was enjoying music they brought in.

A few days later, after the family had the chance to call in distant relatives, she died.

Marissa C. Galicia-Castillo, a doctor in the hospital’s palliative medicine department, said it is common for patients to die in the ICU hooked up to machines.

“Fortunately . . . [this patient] was able to get out of the hospital into a more home-like environment, enjoy some familiar comforts, visiting and talking with loved ones before the natural end of her life,” she said.

But it wasn’t without the torment before the family decided that the aggressive measures may be introducing more pain than relief. Sometimes frail elderly patients languish weeks or months before family members opt for the comfort measures. Sometimes they die hooked up to multiple machines. In this sense, this patient constituted a success.

“We all knew she was dying, and that was the tragedy,” Marik said. “We knew we were just prolonging her death.”

Complete Article HERE!

Hump Day Humor – 12/10/14

Humor takes the sting away; it humanizes us; it helps us keep our perspective. Humor enriches us; it educates us; it brings us joy. Humor doesn’t dissolve the pain or make our life any less poignant, but it does help make things more bearable. That’s my philosophy, and I’m happy to share it with you on a weekly basis. I hope that if you enjoy what you see, you will take the opportunity to share it with others.

no tears

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Cemetery Art – 12/08/14

The task of interpreting the symbols on a headstone or memorial is a daunting one. Although most of the symbols that you will see DO have a textbook meaning, it is quite possible that the headstone or memorial you are looking at was put there simply because someone liked the look of it. Therefore, it will have no meaning beyond the taste of the deceased or those left behind to morn. The point is that many people choose a memorial motif not for its textbook meaning, but simply because they like the ornamentation or design, because it feels “right” or appropriate.

 

Chinese Funeral Etiquette

Traditional Chinese funeral is an elaborate ceremony that involves a number of rites and rituals. However, the etiquette that needs to be followed during these ceremonies is worth noting.

By Rave Uno

The funeral or death ceremony is one of the most important rites of passage that virtually every human being has to go through. Funeral rites differ from country to country and from culture to culture, but all of them are unanimously aimed at ensuring that the soul of the deceased enters the afterlife without any hurdle. People have been following various funeral customs and practices from time immemorial, and we indeed have ample archaeological evidence to prove that certain patches of land served as cemeteries and that certain platforms were used particularly to carry out last rites on a person. Even today, there are a plethora of funeral rites and etiquette that cultures across the world follow, and it is indeed interesting to know that some of these are ages old, owing to the antiquity of the culture itself.

China is, without doubt, one of the oldest surviving civilizations of the world. People of today’s China value their age-old customs and traditions as much as they value advancements in technology and modernization. For the Chinese, the funeral rites are an important part, not only of their religious lives, but also social lives.

Chinese Funeral: Protocol to be Followed

Funeral rites occupy a very important place in the traditional Chinese society, and all the set rules and etiquette need to be very strictly followed. It is believed that the one who fails to adhere to the rules and etiquette of the funeral invites bad luck to his/her family. Traditionally, the Chinese people are known to host lavish funeral ceremonies for their deceased near and dear ones because elaborateness of the funeral ceremony determines the status of the family in the society. This Buzzle write-up features some of the important etiquette to be followed during a traditional Chinese funeral.

Colors to Wear

► If you are attending a Chinese funeral as a guest, make sure that you dress yourself in sober and dark colors. While you can wear pale and muted shades, black is the safest color to opt for.775590-incense-burning-at-a-temple-during-chinese-new-year-celebrations-in-qingdao-china

► Avoid wearing bright and colorful clothing, as such hues may symbolize moods, contrary to the one of mourning. Do not wear red; in China, it is associated with happiness.

► You can dress up in white clothes, but make sure that they are absolutely plain, with no designs at all. In fact, the deceased is also dressed up in a white robe.

► If the deceased lived up to the age of 80 or above, guests can wear a white attire bearing shades of pink or red. The Chinese believe that if a person dies at 80 or above, he/she lived life to the fullest, and had no desires left to be fulfilled. Therefore, such a death (if it is natural), calls for a celebration, and shades symbolizing happiness are acceptable to a certain extent.

During the Funeral

► The Chinese funeral involves a lot of rites which have to be completed properly. Traditionally, the period called “wake” precedes the actual funeral. Held either in the family home or local temple, this period lasts for several days, wherein family members and close friends are expected to bring flowers for the deceased.

► White Iris is the traditional funeral flower in China, so make sure that you take an elaborate wreath made of these flowers, if you are visiting during the “wake”.buddist_funeral

► Though it is not customary, people generally also put banners with couplets about the deceased written on them, within the wreaths. Such a gesture shows that you are equally sad about the person’s death as his/her family.

► On the day of the funeral, all the guests are expected to give money in white envelopes (white is the color of mourning in Chinese culture) to the family members of the deceased. This can be directly handed over to one of the family members (or put into a donation box, if there is one), either on the day of the funeral or one day before.

► You can either write your name on the white envelope while you give the money or you can leave it blank; it is acceptable both ways.

► The amount that you may give varies, depending on the overall income of the family of the deceased, and also that of the guests. The amount of money also depends on the closeness of the grieving family with the guest.

► The minimum expected amount is 101 yuan (about $16), but there is no upper limit for the same. While enclosing money into the white envelope, ensure that you are donating in odd numbers.

► While the funeral is in progress, the members of the grieving family burn joss paper, also known as ghost money, to ensure safe passage of the deceased into the afterlife.

► Apart from joss paper, other miniature items such as houses, cars, televisions, utensils, etc., are also burned. It is believed that all these enter the afterlife with the deceased, so that he/she can lead a luxurious and a comfortable life, even after death.

After the Funeral

► Once all this is done and the guests are about to leave, the family of the deceased distributes red envelopes among them. Each of these envelopes contains a coin.tumblr_mavgpzp6FP1qa54c3o11_r2_1280

► Red, in Chinese culture, is the color of happiness. So, the distribution of red envelopes after funeral symbolizes the end of the period of mourning, and the beginning of a new start.

► As a marker of a fresh beginning, the guests are also made to consume a piece of sweet candy before leaving for their respective homes. Sometimes, the guests may also be presented with a handkerchief.

► It should be noted that the three items mentioned above viz., the envelope with a coin, the handkerchief, and the candy, should not be carried home by the guests. If done so, these items are believed to invite bad luck.

► It is also customary for the grieving families to present their guests with a red-colored thread, while they leave for their homes. This thread is believed to ward away evil spirits, and so, it should be taken home by the guests and tied to their doorknobs.

The Funeral Procession

► Once the elaborate funeral ceremony is over, a funeral procession to the final resting place of the deceased, the crematorium or the cemetery, is held.

► For this, a special band is hired and loud music is played until the place is reached. Traditional Chinese culture believes that evil spirits can be kept away by means of loud music.

► The family members of the deceased wear mourning clothes. The children and the sons/daughters-in-law of the deceased wear black and white colors, while the grandchildren wear a blue-colored attire.16832ifc04a1290b6fe2ecf091cd0e3d2a408b

► The other mourners are allowed to wear any shades, except the bright and bold ones, and it is also customary for them to wear a cloth band on their arms that signifies that they are mourning the death of their loved one.

► The arm on which the band is worn depends on the gender of the deceased. If the deceased is a woman, the band is worn on the right sleeve, and vice versa.

► More often than not, professional mourners are also hired; however, this is not mandatory, and depends largely on the financial status of the grieving family.

► The coffin, in which the corpse is laid, is kept in a hearse decorated with funerary wreaths and flowers.

► The children of the deceased walk in the front row of the procession, carrying a large portrait of their mother/father. They are followed by other family members and guests.

► Whether the deceased is cremated or buried, depends on the personal preference of the deceased himself/herself and/or his/her family. Both these practices prevail in the traditional Chinese culture, and both are equally acceptable.

It is worth noting that in Chinese culture, the funeral customs and rites vary from person to person, depending on the social status of the deceased and/or also his/her position in the family. They also depend on the age, marital status, and the manner in which the person died. So, while you prepare yourself to attend a traditional Chinese funeral ceremony, ensure that you have considered all these things so that you can follow the appropriate etiquette once you get there.
Complete Article HERE!

Life is but a dream – 12/01/14

What does “life is but a dream” mean?

Sometimes when something unbelievable happens, it’s so outrageous (usually in a good way) that it seems like you’re in a dream.

Life is what you make of it. So if you dare to dream, envision what you want it to be – it becomes your reality. It goes right along with the saying “You can be anything you want to be…”

In dreams anything is possible, impossible becomes possible. In life there are limitations with unseen forces that work along with our motives to confuse us more on the path to fulfillment. Life is but a dream – nothing is so easy as to dream it and make it happen right that moment without obstacles standing in way.

 

 

Arguments against Brittany Maynard’s assisted suicide ignore her point of view on suffering

by Kelly Stewart

Brittany Maynard died earlier this month.

Diagnosed with incurable brain cancer at 29 and given six months to live, Maynard relocated to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law. The law permits “mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live” to access, as Maynard describes it, “the medical practice of aid in dying.”dignity_human

Maynard became an advocate and public face for the death with dignity movement. In an opinion piece for CNN and a widely viewed video, she describes the severity of her physical and emotional suffering, the comfort of knowing she can “end [her] dying process if it becomes unbearable,” and the importance of making that option available to people without the “flexibility, resources and time” that allowed her and her husband to relocate.

“Consistent life” Catholics have been some of Maynard’s most fervent critics. Pope Francis didn’t mention her by name but denounced the “false sense of compassion” that motivates death with dignity and abortion rights laws. Various other Catholic responses have characterized her death as evidence of the cheapening of human life; an act that denies the dying person’s responsibility to others; an affront to the dignity of dying people; or even a “slippery slope” that leads to eugenics and genocide. And consistently, Maynard’s Catholic and other Christian critics have appealed to the redemptive value of suffering.

Michael Sean Winters’ blog post “Brittany Maynard’s Suffering” is representative. He writes: “Christians must reclaim the ability to embrace suffering.” He offers a few caveats: We shouldn’t be masochists, and we should work to alleviate some forms of suffering, especially “those varieties of suffering in which we are complicit.” Still, he insists, “in the face of some experiences of suffering, we must never lose sight of the need to embrace it.”

Death with Dignity CampaignFor Winters, Maynard’s decision is fundamentally about a refusal to embrace suffering as meaningful — and, therefore, a refusal to acknowledge human finitude, vulnerability, and radical dependence on God. He characterizes this as a U.S. cultural as well as a generational problem. Children and young adults today, he suggests, have been sheltered from the raw experiences of pain and loss that accustomed earlier generations to the inevitability of suffering and instilled respect for its spiritual value.

Cathy Lynn Grossman’s blog post for Religion News Service “Does Suffering Have Spiritual Meaning?” takes a similar approach. Like Winters, Grossman frames the death with dignity question in terms of a spiritual vs. secular divide. The religious voices she includes in her article all oppose right-to-die laws: a Baptist woman whose teenage daughter has brain cancer, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, and Jesuit Fr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

“When can we say that the potential to grow or overcome or bear that suffering, that potential which made that suffering meaningful, is gone forever?” she quotes Fitzgerald as saying. “Why do we think someone is enlightened enough to know their suffering is not redemptive?”

Grossman does not, however, spend much time on Maynard’s moral reasoning. Instead, she frames Maynard’s decision as a secular, perhaps youthful abandonment of serious reflection on suffering.

“Her choice to die,” Grossman writes, “may reinforce to many — particularly religiously-disengaged millennials — that spiritual meaning, like suffering, is up to you.”

Readings these responses, I have been struck by how tenaciously Maynard’s critics avoid engaging her actual arguments and how little detail they offer in support of their own positions.

They write moving personal reflections on the deaths of loved ones. They offer general tributes to the relationship between love and vulnerability and suffering. They incorporate a few laments about secularism and young adults. But their discussions of Maynard, the death with dignity movement, and even their own theologies of suffering seem to remain at a general level.redemptive-suffering-statue-with-tears

That’s a problem, because when we discuss a concept whose history is as ugly as that of “redemptive suffering,” it is irresponsible to be vague. When we discuss the Christian meaning of suffering, it is irresponsible to ignore decades of feminist, womanist, and postcolonial work on the problems with its valorization in Christian theology. And when an actual suffering and dying person tells us, “This is more than I can bear,” it is irresponsible and cruel to respond that she couldn’t possibly know that.

Before she died on Nov. 1, Brittany Maynard made a case for the right of terminally ill people to end their suffering quickly. She argued that no one else could say when her suffering became intolerable, when her life became unlivable, when her dignity was diminished, or how she was to face her painful and untimely death.

If you read her arguments, listen carefully to her experiences of illness, and maintain — from a position of relative health and safety — that Maynard should nonetheless have embraced her suffering as a redemptive experience, please be careful, suspicious of yourself, and painstakingly detailed in how you make that case.

Under what conditions is suffering redemptive? By what criteria do you distinguish suffering that should be alleviated from suffering that should be embraced? When should your theology of suffering be imposed on people who do not understand their suffering as redemptive? What are the consequences of doing that? What are the consequences of not doing that? Is the embrace of suffering as “countercultural” for others as it is for you? And how do you know you’re right?

These sorts of questions should guide discussions of Brittany Maynard’s death and activism. And they should make us very cautious about finding grace in someone else’s suffering.

Complete Article HERE!

Hump Day Humor

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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The Hanging Coffin

First appearing during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481BC), hanging coffin is a unique funeral and sacrifice custom of the minority groups in southern China. People put the bodies of their ancestors into wooden coffins that were later placed in caves of precipitous cliffsides.

Most coffins were made with one whole piece of wood into various shapes. It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally.

  Famous Hanging Coffin Sites :

While hanging coffins can be found in many places in China, the strange thing is all of them only existed for a certain period in history. Those in Wuyi Mountain are the first appear in China, as early as in the Zhou Dynasty (1027-777BC) while those in Gongxian County of Southwest china’s Sichuan province are the most recent, which also marked the end of the hanging coffin custom.

Hanging Coffins of Bo People in Gongxian, Sichuan Provinve
Hanging Coffins of Guyue People in Dragon Tiger Mountain
Hanging Coffins of Guyue People in Wuyi Mountain

The mystery of hanging coffins

Why did the ancient people bury the dead in hanging coffins?

According to historical records, the Bo people believed “Coffins set high are considered auspicious. The higher they are the more propitious for the dead”. Also, after experiencing years of wars and natural disasters, the Bo people dreamed of going somewhere peaceful and quiet after their death. That is why they chose to rest their bodies on the precipices with the mountains and rivers around, all peaceful, beautiful and quiet. The Guyue people, on the other hand, held a high esteem for high mountains, and believed the higher the hanging coffin was placed; the better they could be protected.

How did the ancient people do it?

So how did the ancient people, including the Bo people and Guyue people, do it? This question once caused heated discussion among experts . Some believe the coffins were lowered down with ropes from the top of the mountain. Some ought the coffins were put in place with wooden stakes inserted into the cliff surface as artificial climbing aids. Others feel that earth ramps were the answer.

Cui Chen, a curator of the Yibin Museum, who examined the three different ways the coffins of the Bo people could have been put in place, has this to say:

“Earth ramps might have been used but experts discount this solution due to the amount of labor required, which would have been difficult in an underpopulated area. A timber scaffold supported on stakes in the cliff might have offered a plausible explanation but years of investigation have failed to find even a single stake hole. On balance the third option of lowering the coffins on ropes from above had always seemed feasible and now cultural specialists have found the telltale marks of the ropes which were used all these years ago. And so this part of the mystery of the hanging coffins has now been resolved.”
During the later years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the imperial army cruelly oppressed the ethnic minority peoples of Southwestern China Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. In particular, the Duzhangman and Bo Peoples fell victims of massacre. To escape their oppression, the Bo migrated to new locations. They hid their real names and assimilated with other ethnic groups. Like their culture they have disappeared but their descendents are still here for they are a part of us.
How the Guyue people hung the coffins onto the Fairy-water Rocks of Longhushan (Dragon TigerMountain) remains a mystery, since the hanging coffins are so dangerously located. Over the years, it has taken on a mystic air. Some people say the coffins were hung up with the aid from the immortals in the heaven, while others say there are invaluable treasures within the caves. Longhushan Administration Bureau once offered a 300,000 yuan ($US 36298) reward for solving the mystery, but so far no one has won the reward.

 

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