By Eddy Montilla.
We always put the idea of living forever before any other wish. Since it is an impossible human situation, we are content with merely increasing the number of years. It is no coincidence that different international organizations like OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), for example, brings regularly their classic life expectancy rankings using its antithesis, death, as a parameter to calculate people’s longevity. This way of calculation looks perfectly normal, but normal things are not always synonymous with correct and logical. It is life itself what should be taken into consideration, that is, these people’s physical and mental health conditions.
It is not hard to imagine all those people in charge of making those rankings receiving data from different countries and working from the comfort of their desks. Later, they will tell us that Japan leads the world in that field. But, have they ever seen how and where many of those old people who keep Japan in first place are living? Probably not.
To see old Japanese people in a nursing home or hospital is undoubtedly a depressing experience: Bedridden old people who need to be attached to a machine, unable to move or speak and groaning with pain. Since they have lost their motor ability, they are being fed with Racol, for instance, a liquid for tube or oral feeding consisting of semi-digested protein, lipid, carbohydrate, electrolyte, trace elements, and vitamins through a feeding tube, which will let them live in that condition for more than a decade. In the beginning, close relatives will go to visit those sick people every week for an hour. Once they get tired, every three or six months, some of them only once a year or when they get a euphemistic phone call from hospital requiring their presence as soon as possible. The employee in charge to prepare the corpse will move lightly the lips of the deceased pretending that he or she died peacefully. In the crematorium, someone will talk about the “long life” his relative had.
In mathematical terms, his idea might be right, but it has no place in real life since those people are biologically alive and functionally dead. The question then is why does this happen? Reasons have little to do with religion, for example, if we take into consideration that Japanese people usually dedicate on average 20 seconds or so per year to pray on New Year’s Day. Their practical approach leads them to think that what truly matters for them is to cling to life and keep those sick people breathing. Besides, business plays an important role in this situation because each of these people’s breath moves millions of yen every day.
Although to a lesser extent, a lot of long-lived people’s situation in Japan could be similar to other people’s in most developed countries, which means that regarding those world rankings of life expectancy, we need a new approach that takes account of the true nature of the situation and its reality. we hope it will not be the age the person had when died what decides at the end of the day life expectancy, but other factors too, such as up to what age that person could play a productive role and, in the worst case, until what point of his or her life we could have some kind of communication with that person. Otherwise, I think that many people prefer to live only the happy 70 years of a Latin-American rather than the 80 years and something of someone in any rich country of OECD, considering that he or she could spend the extra years that the health insurance and social welfare can provide looking at the white ceiling of a room in a hospital or nursery home or looking through the window the street that someday will take him or her to a cemetery.
This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.
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