Life vs. Non-Death: Evaluating quality of life based on patient wishes

By | September 27, 2016

Western medicine is focused on diagnosing and treating illnesses.  We have been taught that way, trained that way, and act that way.  Diagnosing accurately and treating appropriately are done in an attempt to prevent early death.  But, if we are successful in preventing untimely death, what have we created?

If asked what the opposite of death is, most people would say life. Is life truly the opposite of death? Therefore, the opposite of death is really an existence of non-death. When posed in such a manner, we now have to decide, is non-death the same as life? I think not. Having life is much different than just being alive. Life is more meaningful than just non-death.

This distinction becomes very important as we design and implement value-based models of care. From a patient’s perspective, quality encompasses the aspect of life within the context of non-death. Without the component of truly living, non-death becomes just a physiologic state of non-death.

True healthcare design is completely dependent on which the approach we take to this distinction. We have become so comfortable focusing on creating non-death that we forget what giving life really means. We need to step back and really discern what it means to support life of those we serve.

Once we have refreshed our perspective, we then have the ability to reshape our deliverables, how we look at what we do from the lens of our patients, and how we define our own successes, both as a profession and personally. As caregivers, we need to continuously strive for co-creating a situation for our patients that is reverent to their life needs. We should not decrease our focus on non-death, but encompass into our thoughts how we enhance life in the process. We now become life enhancers as we deliver on our promises within the realm of medicine.