Sustainability and Innovative Environments
We talked about innovators and change agents in past weeks, so let’s discuss sustainability. Sustainability builds and maintains the conditions to ensure human health and the environment is protected; and living in productive harmony (United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), n.d.). This definition comes from the EPA, but the concept still applies to health care. Do we have the materials and resources to acquire and maintain human health?
The United Nations’ drafted 17 sustainable goals (deadline is 2030) and they focused on ending poverty, hunger, and discrimination against women. It also listed equitable and quality education; ensuring healthy lives through prevention; affordable energy; and sustained economic growth (The Guardian, 2015). These goals would take trillions of dollars. Let me state this more clearly, ending poverty would approximately take 66 billion dollars a year; and sustaining infrastructure (e.g., water, agriculture, power, and transport) would be 17 trillion annually (The Guardian, 2015). The World Health Organization drafted a Health Impact Assessment to determine which health indicators can indicate if we are advancing sustainable development (WHO, 2015). For instance, if we can prevent pollution then pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases may decrease (WHO, 2015).
Sustainability and Death with Dignity
Since Death with Dignity does not exist in the State of Arizona it makes it difficult to have dialogue about sustainability. Looking at states like Oregon, Washington, and Vermont it is important to mimic what they have done to legalize and maintain death with dignity. As time moves on, so does healthcare. It will be imperative the laws reflect these changes. For instance, there may be a day where the definition of physician-assisted death may include nurse practitioners. To date, only physicians can write a lethal prescription (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015).
As stated in previous weeks, I believe sustainability of the Death with Dignity movement hinges upon continued education of the American people, especially in states where this end-of-life option does note exist. Also, bills modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act will help those drafting the bill utilize correct verbiage; and (most importantly) Oregon has years of data to prove its safely enforced (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015).
Final Thoughts…on Sustainability
While researching this topic, I found the very essence of true sustainability. This story is truly for our green readers. It appears the funeral business has been causing havoc on our Mother Earth. Here are some alarming facts about the funeral business and waste:
Approximately 30 million board feet of chemically-treated hardwood; 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid; and tons (in the thousands) of concrete, steel, copper and bronze are used yearly.
- Embalming fluid, containing formaldehyde, has been found in groundwater; and is carcinogenic.
- The wood used for some caskets, mahogany, that is endangered.
- Cremations cause approximately 600 pounds of mercury (i.e., fillings from teeth) to be released into the atmosphere. There have been legislative attempts for filters with cremations.
- A 10-acre cemetery has enough wood to build 40 houses (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015).
The Green Burial Council is a non-profit organization dedicated to environmentally sustainable death care (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015). It starts with choosing a designated conservation burial ground that is owned by a non-profit. There will be no vases or plastic flowers at burial sites, but only indigenous plants and flowers; and 5% of burial costs go towards an endowment to invest back into the land (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015).
This was the first time I heard of a green burial. Just a thought for those literally worried about sustainability (even in death).
Death with Dignity National Center (2015). Dying to give back to the Earth. Retrieved from http://www.deathwithdignity.org/2014/03/04/dying-to-give-back-to-the-earth
Death with Dignity National Center (2015). Death with dignity around the U.S. Retrieved from http://www.deathwithdignity.org/advocates/national
The Guardian (2015) Sustainable Goals:All you need to know. Retrieved fromhttp://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jan/19/sustainable-development-goals-united-nations
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2015). What is sustainability. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm
World Health Organization (2015). Health indicators for sustainable goals. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hia/health_indicators/en/