The cartoonist Gahan Wilson died two Thursdays ago in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, at the age of 89.
The poet and critic Clive James died three days later, in Cambridge, England, at the age of 80.
Reading their obituaries, it struck me how neatly their end-of-life care situations split between their two countries.
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Gahan Wilson died of complications from severe dementia. After Wilson’s wife, Nancy Winters — “his guide through the world” — died earlier in the year, his stepson, Paul Winters, had to move him out of the assisted living facility the couple had been living in.
Wilson was profiled by the Arizona Republic in April. He was still drawing.
Gahan lives in a memory care facility not far from their house. The staff is kind. Gahan is safe. But it’s no way to live, Paul said.
“As an old person without money, you are not respected. You are no one,” he said. “It seems our society doesn’t really honor elders as we should.” […]
Paul and [his wife] Patty navigate the health care system for Gahan. The care he needs is expensive.
They have raised $58,000 on a GoFundMe account. Paul knows people donate because his stepfather is famous. He can imagine how other families must struggle.
“Memory care is wildly expensive,” Paul wrote. “If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this.”
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Meanwhile, across the pond, Clive James died “peacefully” at home thanks to a team of hospice nurses, “surrounded by his family and his books,” almost a decade after he’d been diagnosed with leukemia, kidney failure, and emphysema.
Now, any rich person in America can die this way, maybe, but thankfully, James had the National Health Service, whose praises he sang just last year:
The result of all this careful attention is that I have lived several years past my predicted time of extinction, and that my credibility as a dying man is in tatters. Lifting a Paper Mate Flexgrip Ultra ballpoint pen takes all my strength, but the resulting prose says I am still alive and full of energy…. So I’m stuck with still sounding healthy when I write, and the impression is only mildly misleading because the NHS has been doing a marvellous job on me.
He addressed the cost of it all:
The NHS will go on for ever being almost broke because there will always be more things it can do. You might profess to be appalled that the NHS has spent millions on a new drug to stop people suddenly turning upside down and falling on their head, but you will be less appalled the first time you yourself suddenly turn upside down and fall on your head.
It wasn’t just Clive James and his friends and family who benefited from the NHS, it was readers all over the world and into the future.
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“I think one way I could be helpful to British voters is they could imagine me as the Ghost of Christmas Future,” says American comedian Rob Delaney.
He recently posted a video about his experiences with the NHS after the death of his son, Henry.
He said his American friends all hear about what a mess the NHS is on Fox News.
On the contrary, he says, “I’m crazy about it.”
May I ask you to watch this short video I made about the NHS?pic.twitter.com/VNzKPYGgq2
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) November 23, 2019
Our American healthcare system is killing us. It’s bankrupting our families, chaining us to jobs we hate, and keeping us from doing the work we’re meant to do.
It is especially hard on artists and other kinds of creative entrepreneurs.
It is why I’m a single issue voter.