I’ve been having more than my share of conversations about death lately, but my meeting with the local coroner was unplanned.

Being coroner in a rural county is hardly a part-time job. But when anyone dies unattended by a physician, the coroner has to investigate. We weren’t talking CSI Miami, we were talking about elderly friends and family members who are facing end of life issues.

The coroner told me he’s discomfited by folks who let their loved ones enter hospice programs only to call 911 for the emergency medical technicians when a life-ending crisis appears. “I ask them, ‘Why did you call the EMT? You’d signed up for hospice so he could die at home in peace.’ And they tell me, ‘Hospice was just going to let him die.’ ”

Well, that’s the point of hospice, isn’t it, to let a person die naturally instead of being attended by screaming sirens and legions of doctors and nurses trailing machinery and tubes and drugs and cost accountants in their wakes?

Still, it’s hard to fight the thought that you can save Mama as simply as dialing 911. It’s part of the larger discussion about health care. How much is too much?

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Piney Woods Pete

Piney Woods Pete

Hard-charging salesman by day, Piney Woods Pete stays up late into the foggy night to render words.