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Bowie: Life well lived, death well planned

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Posted: 2 pm ET

This has been a tough month for baby boomers and rock 'n' roll fans, punctuated by the deaths of David Bowie, Eagles' co-founder Glenn Frey, Dan Haggerty of Grizzly Adams fame, Mott the Hoople’s drummer Dale Griffin, and singer Celine Dion's husband and brother.

Dr. Mark Taubert, a palliative care physician in Cardiff, United Kingdom, wrote a thank-you note to David Bowie in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. He told the late star that his careful pre-death planning was serving as an inspiration to the rest of us who might not otherwise face death so gracefully. "Your story became a way for us to communicate very openly about death," Taubert wrote.

After thanking Bowie for his moving and prescient album and video, Blackstar, released within days of his death, Taubert segued into a discussion of other steps Bowie took to manage his last days among us. His observations about what most of us will eventually face are worth considering.

Dying at home comfortably beats dying in a hospital. We have been shown a wealth of pictures from Bowie's last days, not in a hospital gown, but looking sharply turned out in a well-cut suit. Most of us probably won't be able to pull that off, but having a plan for home care is what's required to make it happen. As Taubert says in his tribute, "You looked great, as always, and it seemed in direct defiance of all the scary monsters that the last weeks of life can be associated with."

If there were ever a time for drugs... Taubert points out that Bowie's plan in his final days must have provided for a drug regimen that included not only preventatives for "pain, nausea, vomiting and breathlessness," but also something to take the edge off depression. In these days of fear over drug misuse, it can be difficult to get this kind of treatment, but talking to your doctor in advance could ease the way.

Write it down. Even if you are no longer able to speak for yourself, if you have written down your wishes clearly and put the document next to your bed in an easy-to-find place, there is less likely to be confusion, nor will others be so compelled to rush you to the hospital for unwanted emergency care.

No cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Bowie, Taubert speculates, must have clearly rejected, "physical, sometimes bone-breaking chest compressions, electric shocks, injections and insertion of airways," which he says is "only successful in 1% to 2% of patients whose cancer has spread to other organs in their body."

Find health-care professionals who see it your way. Bowie, Taubert says, was almost certainly able to rely on health care professionals whose attitudes were sympatico with his. Many of us aren't lucky enough to have a lot of choice, but we can certainly try. Medicare will help by paying your doctor to talk with you about your wishes for care in your final days.

Bowie's graceful departure from this life is a good argument for having not only a life well lived, but also a death well planned.

Follow me on Twitter @jennielp.

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February 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm

American Healthcare has gone to the dogs since the late 80's....we are what we eat, fact is fact, our daily food intake pretty much dictates our outcome, life expectancy. We rely way too much on doctors, pills and surgeries!! Bowie lived his life and died his way, RIP and see you on the other side.

I told you
February 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

Obama care what a joke, it has nothing to do with health care, control, plan and simple, more money to capital hill, that's it. stop these left wing demos.

February 26, 2016 at 9:30 am

Dear Mr. Bowie: I was never a big fan until now. What a warm felt, intelligent, man you were. The Lord gave you a wonderful gift and you shared it all with us. Thank you Mr. Bowie. Thank you for being you. All of your music tells a story and teaches a lesson if you only listen. The Lord is kind and good for giving me a brother like you. I wish I would've seen the gift you were trying to share while you were alive. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart. Bless you.

February 26, 2016 at 9:09 am

I wish you would all stop calling the Healthcare act Obamacare! He did not write the bill himself. He signed it yes. However, if you were to take the time to look up who wrote the bill you will find that it was written by both parties and not the President. In other words, it was bi-partisan.

Furthermore, I have worked in the Medical Industry for over 20 years and what is happening with the cost of Medical care has nothing to do with the Healthcare plan and has everything to do with greedy insurance companies.

This is a piece of the Healthcare plan that has not been either taken care of yet or should have been implemented in the beginning.

There is also another factors involved as well that people do not take the time to look at. Like what is the total out of pocket? Was the information posted correctly from the insurance Company? In other words, more often than not a mistake is made at the provider's office and the person who was seen doesn't look to see what they actually owe. They don't take the time to read their EOB. So it is not all the government's fault, stop blaming on the government and put the blame where it belongs, with the Insurance Companies that are all for profit.

Furthermore, pay attention to what your max payout is and make sure you are not being charged for something that you are not supposed to be. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting into before signing up. Alsom read the bill so see what and when each piece is supposed to kick in.

Remember it is not Obama's fault it may have been his idea and he may have signed the bill but he did not do it himself. So get over it and move on.

willie woodard
February 17, 2016 at 11:04 am

what is missing is the death of Maurice White

January 30, 2016 at 10:32 am

Melinda, are you aware that many people's annual income is below the $25k you say you paid out of pocket?
ObamaCare was popular a year ago but the party's over and those who were grateful they'd found insurance under the ACA are now crying about it's limited use and high costs.

January 29, 2016 at 10:25 am

State of the health care has nothing to do with Obamacare, but it has everything to do with it being a for profit business. Health care needs to become universal and non-profit. I spent $25,000 out of pocket for premiums and co-pays when I got sick 8 years ago, and that was before Obamacare. I had the best insurance coverage my company offered, and it was comparable to what most large companies have.
As far as premiums and deductibles, they have been going up for last 20 years, and they would keep going up with or without Obamacare.

January 29, 2016 at 7:38 am

and Paul Kantner...

January 29, 2016 at 12:00 am

obaumacare stinks!!He has ruined our health care system.In fact,he is ruining our country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!If one can't afford insurance,how are they going to pay a a..can he be.

January 28, 2016 at 8:24 pm

Obaumacare has destroyed health care.....premiums doubling and tripling, deductibles doubling, not being able to keep your doctor, not being able to keep your hospital, and not being in charge of what you want covered and not covered because you would never need it like birth-control as a guy. They bragg about a few million being covered with the taxpayers coming up with over a trillion dollars we don't have to pay for it, but they fail to mention that twice as many people are now out of healthcare because they can nolonger afford the extremely high premiums and can't stand the lousy coverage and loopholes !!!