Letter: Saved for a painful end

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Sir: Your report (24 July) on deaths from heart attacks rightly agonises over the economic and social causes, but misses a bigger question. Do doctors "save" lives or just postpone death? When we are told that some cause of death has been reduced, are we ever told what follows? If we are saved from a fatal heart attack does that mean we are being "saved" only to die later of some slow, painful, rotting cancer? Or of Alzheimer's? Or, eventually, of a "non-fatal"stroke, with loss of thought and speech?

What about the slow misery of bereavement and lonely helplessness? Not long ago a friend of mine had the latest in a series of heart attacks. He had been an engineer and a gardener, with a keen sense of what was neat and fitting. He asked his doctor what he might still do in his garden. What consolation was the callously brash reply: "Sit and watch the weeds grow"?

Those of us who are old have one wish - for a swift, clean ending, with no medical havering about "lifesaving" treatments.