Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Justifying Death With Language




I am pissed that the local media says covid deaths with underlying health conditions. This makes people think they're immune from it. Guess what people, underlying health conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, over weight..... Everyone has underlying health conditions. (Comment via Twitter)

I fully understand where that sentiment is coming from. Laredo officials pop up on our social media feeds to give us the new tallies of those affected by Covid-19. As of early this afternoon, 2,163 Laredoans have tested positive for Coronavirus; and the new death toll is at 36. The practice of having our leaders go through a presentation by roll call has become rote. Worse yet, they remind us that those who have perished had some sort of underlying condition.  

It's useless information for the layman, really. Death should be death. It shouldn't be qualified with vague language. And underlying conditions can be any host of medical ailments. You turn 40 and you automatically join the underlying condition peer group. If I jump onto a scale right now and refer to a BMI chart, I'll be reminded that I fall into the obese category. I don't consider myself obese. However, researchers have come up with a system to help me gauge my well being. They're saying, watch your weight and eat better for improved results over the long term. Still, I gorge on chips and down them with a sugary soda, because I still haven't crossed the event horizon. I'm doing okay and I have plenty of time to make corrections. That's my thought process.

The messaging that's echoed by our leaders and media outlets is doing the same: it's reassuring us that this new virus has an ugly fate for the weakest among us. Those with unmanaged comorbidities, those who are frail are the ones with one foot in the grave. The others will die, not us! Our doctors have never uttered the words underlying condition to our face, and thus, we should be fine.

We rationalize death to assuage our own fears and neglect to think that anyone with a medical condition can live a productive life.

In looking at inspirational thoughts for people with cancer, I came across this one: Cancer is a word, not a death sentence. In our current public health crisis, Covid-19 plus underlying condition equals death sentence. At least, that's what the wording tells us. Uttering underlying condition time and again is repetitive and vacuous. Meaning is stripped away from a person's death.  

36 Laredoans have died -- they probably didn't have to. But because of our lack of leadership, they did. Our response has been inefficient and marred by bickering. Medical treatment is reactive and there's no telling when we'll have a useful vaccine to combat our virulent enemy. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. All of this should be flagged as the contributing cause of death, not underlying condition(s).

There's too much confusion, however. The only consistent messaging thrown at us is underlying conditions. We'll use it as a salve for the psychological wound inflicted upon us. It's all we've got at this point.