Bioethics Blogs

A Dis Eased Life

The following is a guest post by MPR News host Cathy Wurzer.

If you are young and vital, it will seem odd to suggest that you are actually living with some kind of dis ease but trust me, you are. If you are a bit older or have elderly parents, then it is quite likely that there is some kind of physical disease that has been served up alongside a heaping helping of dis ease.

Disease. Dis-ease. Confused yet?

You’ll note I separated the “dis” from the “ease.” The concept of dis ease came to Dr. Bruce Kramer, my late friend and co-author of We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying shortly after he was diagnosed with the deadly disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given the news that was to change his life on December 6, 2010. Bruce dryly joked that the diagnosis should have been delivered the next day, December 7th, to coincide with the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, because both events carried the weight of massive upheaval, destruction, and death. My friend had a quirky sense of humor.

ALS is no joke. It remains a medical mystery. Researchers haven’t been able to figure out why neurons in the brain and spinal cord that communicate with the body’s muscles become disconnected. The muscles required to move arms and legs, to talk, swallow, and breathe become completely paralyzed. Death usually occurs in two to five years after diagnosis. There is no cure for ALS and, unlike other diseases, there’s not even a decent treatment for it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.