What Broke My Father’s Heart

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Katy Butler’s article, “What Broke My Father’s Heart,” delves into the unintended consequences of modern medical advancement. Butler describes the agony that modern medication – in this case, pacesetters – caused her family, particularly her mother, in graphic detail. Though the medication, surgery, and pacemaker extended his father’s life, they also took away his ability to live, or rather to be alive. In addition, I put a lot of pressure on her mother, who had to give up calligraphy to care for her ailing husband. Though modern medicine is a welcome relief to the ageing population, the author alludes to the fact that, it is riddled with “over treatment” which, in most cases, swaps the longevity with the value of life.

To begin with, Butler narrates that her parents were “among the lucky” who had the previlage to fully enjoy the American medical system. Until 2011, they were a happy couple that lived a health life and accessed “a panoply of medical advances (Butler, Katy.).” The father wrote about the history of his birthplace, while the mother practiced yoga. With all things going their way, the author and her brother, were optimistic that their parents would live a long healthy life, and maybe die from “undefined final illness” in old-age. However, the onset of their dad’s first stoke exposed them to the ugly side of the health system.

As Robert Fales, the author’s parents specialists believed, the medical care was riddled with cases of overdoing the treatment process. True to his skeptics, the author saw his parents “lose control of their lives to a set or perverse financial incentives… skewed to promote maximum treatment (Butler, Katy).” Soon, her father – a “pacemakerless and seemingly healthy” 79 year old – suffered a stroke. This event changed his life and that of his wife; and the American medical care came to the “rescue”. The author argues that the decision to have a pacemaker placed on his father’s heart was not necessary, since other procedures like an external pacesetter could still be used before surgery. However, as the article shows, the alternative procedure would be less expensive and would bring less income to Doctor Rogan and his facility. More specifically, less $ 461 paid to him, $12000 paid to the hospital, and $7500 that went to St. Jude Medical, the manufacturers of the pacemaker.

With economics coming into play when providing critical care, the more the treatment process and the longer the procedures, the more the money. This way, doctors would rather perform unnecessary tests and procedures, than offer cost-containment alternatives. Butler recognizes this saying, it explains “why physicians like Fales net and average $173, 000 a year while noninvasive cardiologists like Rogan net about $419,000 (Butler, Katy).” By placing a pacesetter on Butler’s dad chest, the Medicare would pay for the procedure as well as its frequent monitoring. However, there is no evidence suggesting that any help was accorded to the primary caregiver, Butler’s mam. The father was degenerating, and his condition was worsening, and the pressure to care for him meant that Butler’s mother lived a torturous life. She even proclaims that, “Enough of all this overkill! Its killing me! Talk about quality of life-what about mine?”

Although the pacesetters worked without a hitch, the father was degenerating due to his age. The article states that the degeneration “attacked his eyes, lungs, bladder and bowels.” Aside that, a tiny blood vessel clot killed a cluster of Butler’s father’s brain. By then, he was partly deaf, losing his eyesight, and “a wet macular degeneration” required ocular injections – more procedures. Moreover, he collapsed constantly and even further hemorrhage drove him to a horrible state. Surely, a person in such a state is a burden to the family and to his spouse. The father earlier – post-stroke – even proclaimed he would rather have died that make his wife pass through all the trouble. The pacesetter presented made his hearth beat, kept him alive, but there was no life to live. Discovering that the pacesetter would last five years longer, was unimaginable, and the author together with his mother, know that it is time to let him die.

While going through such torture, and the author clearly seeing the torment his parents were undergoing, it is hard to fathom that the medical system would not stop pacesetter. Rogan says that the father “might die immediately (Butler, Katy).” He goes on to die five days later, when he stopped breathing, ending a life of agony and torment. Even through that, the heart was still beating, the pacesetter working perfectly, ironically, on a body long gone. Even as the cremation was complete, pieces of metals from the pacesetter were still evident. Evidently, the pacesetter was keeping him alive while his body continued degenerating, keeping alive a lifeless body. For the reason, we see that the author’s mother refuses to undergo the same procedures. With her experiences, she knows that his daughter may go through the unforgiving psychological torture that she went through. The mother understood the difference between a long life, and a quality life. She understood the financial incentives driving the medical world, and how money comes into the healthcare industry. She survived two attacks but later dies; and unlike the husband, “she was continent and lucid to her end (Butler, Katy).”

Butler narrative is presents a factual information of the American healthcare industry. For long, I personally appreciated every effort that the medical system brought forth to prolong the lives of the elderly population. However, I feel compelled to side with her notion that at times, these efforts are aimed at financial gain. A morally astute physician will most likely present alternatives to the patient and explain without disclosure the cost and effects of the procedure. They should not be cornered into expensive procedures that most likely finance the industry more than it finances the person going through the procedure. As the Butler finds out, the medical industry aim to “receive honoraria, speakers bureau [fees], consulting fees or research support from the industry (Butler, Katy)”: All these fueled by the agenda “to introduce new products” and not benefit the patients.

Aging gracefully is anyone’s dreams, but being kept alive while the body screams for death, is morally incorrect. The author shows that, sometimes the health care system goes for “overtreatment” of the patients, in some cases for monetary gains (Butler, Katy). In the aging population, the cases of unnecessary procedures bring in more revenues than other populations. For this matter, it sometimes, the doctors will look offer medical care that would unnecessarily prolong the life of an individual who is clearly dying inside. An old person living through these procedures may have a long life, but the strain and stress they put on the caregivers does disqualifies their quality of life. By this, a better intervention in medical care needs to be provided to provide unselfish care to the old-age population, and those supporting them.

Works Cited

Butler, Katy. “A Pacemaker Wrecks A Family’s Life”. Nytimes.Com, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20pacemaker-t.html.

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