When it’s time to go, let me go, with a nice glass of whisky and a pleasing pill

When it’s time to go, let me go, with a nice glass of whisky and a pleasing pill

Back in the mid-70s, we were introduced to the notion of “medical nemesis” by the Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich. He warned us that doctors may do more harm than good, and that some diseases (which he labelled iatrogenic) were caused, not cured, by medical interventions. This doctrine has been widely accepted – we all know about the dangers of overprescribing antibiotics, about the risks of over-zealous or misinterpreted scans, about the creeping medicalisation of childbirth – but its application to old age and death is what interests me here. One of Illich’s arguments in those days was that medicine, despite its apparent successes, was not notably increasing life expectancy. Alas, he was wrong. Artificially prolonged old age is the new iatrogenic malady.

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