April 07, 2005

Not to sound unfeeling, but... (updated)

I heard a commercial where AIDs was described as a "life challenging" condition.

Terminal. The word is "terminal". You get AIDs, you're gonna die from it. Eventually it's going to kill you. Coming up with yet another polite phrase to sugar coat reality isn't doing anyone any favors, it just degrades the message being communicated.

Update: From the comments and email, I've been reminded that more people die "with" than "from" diseases these days. While I understand the point and even agree with it somewhat, I think that our medical arts have advanced enough to prolong life despite whatever the terminal disease is. I'd guess that more HIV positive people die from pneumonia than from the actual AIDs itself, but that doesn't mean the AIDs didn't kill them, just that another complication facilitated by the AIDs was the final step.

People who succumb to cancer don't get that kind of consideration. And in the end, does it really matter?

Still, maybe "terminal" isn't the correct term to use. My objection (badly put it seems) was to the politically correct term "life challenging". The attempt to not offend anyone is vague enough to encompass everything after conception (or birth, depending on your viewpoint). I commuted to work this morning in the fog and rain on an interstate highway, that also fits the definition of life challenging.

Posted by Ted at April 7, 2005 11:35 AM
Category: Square Pegs

I respectfully beg to differ. You are going to die with it (for now), but not necessarily from it. It was a goal, back in the days when I worked on the clinical trials, to make HIV/AIDS a manageable condition like asthma or diabetes (albeit an infectious one, adding more levels of education and support to the management).

Posted by: nic at April 7, 2005 12:10 PM

I don't know - I have good friends now who have been living with AIDS for 10, 15 years now. It seems to me to be a completely changed landscape than it was in the 80s and 90s, when it was most definitely a death sentence (and one that would come relatively quickly). I agree with the diabetes analogy above.

Posted by: red at April 7, 2005 12:16 PM

I have to agree with Nic, and not just because I live with her :) She's pretty much nailed it: with proper management, it seems as if HIV/AIDS is no more fatal than diabetes is. I concede she and I may be dreamers, but as Red said, people are living longer now with HIV/AIDS than they were expected to twenty years ago.

In fact, nowadays there are, IMO, very few truly terminal "common" diseases, save one: Life--No one has gotten out of it alive.

Posted by: Victor at April 7, 2005 06:32 PM

I volunteer at what used to be an AIDS service organization, but in the last couple of years they have expanded their services to include clients who have "other live challeging conditions," I believe is how they phrase it. That includes cancer, ALS, anything where the clients are unable to shop for their own food and prepare their own meals because of their condition. Some clients need the services for a specific period...e.g., right after a round of chemo until they regain strength...others until they end up in institutional care or, well, die.
I don't see the phrase as politically correct B.S., I see it as a shorthand way to describe the situation.
And when I said that people may die with AIDS and not from it, I wasn't talking about pneumonia or another opportunistic infection that was fatal because of the HIV-compromised immune system...I'm talking about someone having a heart attack at 80.

Posted by: nic at April 8, 2005 08:30 AM

I want to aplogize if my last comment is too troll-like. I admit this is a hotbutton issue for me; and I probably hit "post" a little too fast there. Sorry, Ted.

Posted by: nic at April 8, 2005 08:58 AM

Nic, we've disagreed before and we both know that's ok. Your experience in this area is obviously greater than mine. I'm learning a lot from your comments, so fire away. :)

Posted by: Ted at April 8, 2005 09:34 AM

This reminds me of one of my favorite moments in radio.

Bob Edwards was interviewing a doctor on Morning Edition, who was describing some sort of long-term survey the details of which I forget. The doctor said (this is from memory, but close), "Four percent of the test subjects underwent the mortality experience."

There was a sound from Edwards that was probably a spit-take. He interrupted the good doctor. "Excuse me. They 'underwent the mortality experience?' Do you mean that they died?"

"Well, yes," said the doctor. "They underwent the mortality experience."

Edwards made it through the rest of the interview; he's a pro. But you could tell it was one of the most absurd things he'd ever heard from a guest.

Posted by: Doug Pratt at April 12, 2005 12:30 PM
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