It is interesting that the chief physician of England, Chris Whitty, talks about the quality of life (Prioritize quality of life over prolongation for the elderly, Chris Whitty tells doctors, 10 November) in the same week as Simon Jenkins he says he was forced to turn off the news because he found it too shocking. It is easy to forget that quality of life is determined by mental attitude as much as physical, medical and financial circumstances. I am 77 years old and join Simon in my strong desire to protect my mental health.
Whitty urges families not to shy away from talking to older relatives. We also need a conversation with the youngest in society about the importance of lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet and the harmful effects of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. Bad habits don’t start in old age.
Maybe we need a GCSE on “the good life”. It could be based on snapshots of the quality of life a person can expect in each decade if they follow different lifestyles and habits.
• As a palliative care physician, it was incredibly refreshing to see the Chief Medical Officer encourage a very important conversation that needs to happen. What is most important to a person should be the focus as they approach the end of life.
Clinicians of all specialties should not be afraid to have honest and realistic conversations with their patients about the potential benefits and burdens of treatment.
Furthermore, studies show that timely access to palliative care can improve both quality and amount of life compared to more invasive treatments.
dr. Sarah Holmes,
chief medical officer, Marie Curie
• There seems to be an assumption that we all want to live forever without anyone asking us if we do. For some, medications are useful for pain relief and maintaining good health.
For others, the reality is different. Too often, the best we can hope for is to end up on a pile of blankets in a wheelchair in an incredibly expensive nursing home, pushed around by an exhausted and underpaid carer. It’s no wonder some are seriously considering ditching the pills and potions and letting nature take its course.
Ruth Lewis (almost 90)
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
• I’m glad Booths are removing self-service checkouts from most of their stores (Report, November 10). My mother lived on her own in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire until she was 102 and visited the local shop, Booths, every day. This was the main part of her social contact and she knew the personal details of all the cashiers. When she died 10 years ago, aged 104, two exchequer clerks from Booths attended her funeral.
I’m not sure how good the daily chat was for Booths’ profits, but it sure was good for my mother. I hope other supermarkets follow suit because I don’t like the idea of self-service until I go to a funeral.