Hospice care can break death taboo in China

By Andrew Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/23 16:43:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In China, most people are reluctant to talk about death. They generally perceive death as an ominous and hideous state of presence. Everyone wishes others longevity and an everlasting life, and death is not a topic people talk about in daily conversation. This mindset of fearing and detesting death could lead to severe mental breakdown when the inevitable finally happens.

In 2013, more than 3.68 million people in China were newly diagnosed as cancer patients, which accounts for 21.8 percent of the total number in the world, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

The most common type of cancer is lung cancer, which is roughly 50 percent of the mortality rate. To some degree, cancer has become the synonym of death. To many patients, being diagnosed with cancer is like a death sentence. As a result, not only the physical condition of patients is challenged by various chemotherapies and illnesses, the mental condition of the patients and their families is also severely jeopardized.

The treatment of cancer is the least pleasant experience one could have, and miracles seldom happen. Knowing the remaining life expectancy is sometimes worse than the physical pain, which can cause a huge amount of stress. Patients are forced to accept the harsh reality that death is coming and no one can stop it. If the stress caused by the impending termination is not properly relieved, patients can live in endless fear of leaving this world, and their last days will be a constant struggle. Hospice care could be the solution because it could appease the patients' emotions and escort them from the world serenely.

Hospice care is considered an integral part of the cancer treatment process, according to WHO. Hospice care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stresses of a serious illness in a patient's last days. The goal is to improve quality of life for both patients and their families.

Hospice care will not guarantee to prolong a patient's life expectancy, but it is effective in relieving the anxiety of patients and also those who are close to them. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has six months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course. Since the final stage of cancer is often irreversible, a most effective option for treatment is hospice care. It can help ease the physical pain the cancer brought to patients and ensure they will spend their last days in the world in a peaceful and harmonious way.

The superstitious mindset of many Chinese people prevents the development of hospice care in China. They tend to insist that no matter what the result might be, the patient should always receive medical treatment until the last minute to keep them alive. However, in most cases, miracles don't happen: Cancers don't yield to medical treatments, especially those in the final stages.

Chemotherapies and radiation therapies would only worsen the condition of the patient and could potentially be the last straw that crushes the patient rather than the cancer itself. The side-effects can be a torture for patients as they live in a constant state of pain both physically and mentally so that they would give up hope. It is understandable that no one is willing to give up a single chance of keeping themselves and their close relatives alive, but sometimes rather than being alive and suffering from endless pain, a peaceful farewell to the world might be the better solution.

The author is a student from the Holderness School in the US. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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