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Questions (and answers?) > Why is death so abhored in this society?

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message 1: by Carlie (last edited Dec 11, 2008 08:46AM) (new)

Carlie | 86 comments I can't understand the logic of "saving lives". I understand the instinct to survive and reproduce but I cannot wrap my mind around the desire to prevent death. Everywhere I turn, there's this "society" dedicated to research on preventing illness (Cancer society, heart association). There's always someone asking you to contribute to the search for a cure for something or other.
It makes no logical sense to me that we as a society should strive to prevent or cure the major causes of death. Not only is it presently futile, you cannot save a life, only delay death (Yes, I know about longevity research that may some day make death a thing of the past, and I find that scary). But it is also irresponsible. We have limited resources here on this planet and we cannot afford to prevent the natural cycle of death required to limit our population to a number that this planet can sustain without injury.
If all the major causes of death are removed, it is obvious that we would have a major disaster on a catastrophic scale. Society as we know it would disintegrate as the survivors struggle with each other for resources that cannot meet their requirements.
I believe we as a society need to reexamine the way we view death. It is part of the natural cycle of life and is absolutely required for our continued success as a species. The bleeding heart mentality that rejects this viewpoint as cold/heartless is simply ignoring the big picture. Is it really worth risking our survival as a species (one could even say the entire concept of life on earth) to "save" every living human being from the natural forces that keep our population in check? What are you really saving if the very act of preventing the death of those marked for it leads to the death of everyone?
I'm sure not "everyone" would die if we prevented death. Eventually the fight over resources would lead to culling of the population to sustainable levels until new births overrode that number and lead to a new cycle of mayhem. But I ask you, is that really where we want to go as a society? Stop people from dying from natural diseases and preventable accidents only to reach a point where someone must die but now from violence on a large scale?
And at the risk of sounding like a natural selection nazi, I deplore the fact that our behaviors and attitudes may very well lead to a human population of genetically unfit individuals. This situation would only benefit the pharmaceutical industry as more and more population members require their chemical aids for their daily survival. And God forbid we should come under some heavy selection pressure that eliminates all but the few human beings remaining with genes adaptable to such pressure.
I am not advocating the deliberate murder of the ill nor ignorance to their suffering. I simply believe that our medical practice and research interests should be concentrated on alleviating the pain and suffering caused by the major causes of death instead of the current aim which is to prevent said causes from leading to death. For who among us would prefer to live in pain (or for some, in need of a daily ritual of pills) over dying in peace? I for one am in strict favor of the latter.

I do not know the mathematical limits of this planet as to the number of human beings it can sustain without injury but clearly there must be one. And the wars over oil, the multiple attempts at genocide, and the changes in our climate are some of the things that make me fear we may be approaching that limit. Therefore, outside of the box, I am thinking that we must concentrate our efforts on making the lives of everyone here more comfortable rather than prolonging the lives (miserable for some as it is) of everyone to the best of our abilities.

message 2: by Shannon (new)

Shannon  (giraffe_days) I agree with you Carlie. We naturally seem to fear death - and religions don't help, even though they're supposed to - but what really gets my goat is our blasé attitudes: we eat poorly, don't exercise, drink, smoke and many other things that are bad for us when in excess - and then we hit our later years, get diagnosed with something and try to fix it then? It's waaaaaay too late!

But we keep doing it, partly I think because it gives us the illusion that we're in control. People who start smoking at a young age will make lots of excuses - really they're hoping (and expecting) that by the time it becomes a problem someone will have found a cure.

Which is the everyday person's attitude to just about everything, a kind of naive assumption that someone, somewhere, is taking care of it and it's not our responsibility.

Then there's what you're talking about Carlie, if I've understood you correctly when you say: I deplore the fact that our behaviors and attitudes may very well lead to a human population of genetically unfit individuals. Our poor diets and lifestyle choices are often genetically passed on to our children, or picked up by them and repeated. Again, there's a distinct lack of responsibility among many people that's shameful.

I think we're way past the number of people the planet can sustain.

And I'm all for voluntary euthanasia. If someone's ready to die, they should have the right to decide that and end their lives with dignity, and make that decision while they still can. And when they can't make that decision - that's when there are ethical dilemmas that I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for. My grandmother lived as a vegetable for about seven years. To what purpose? Yet could anyone make the decision to kill her body, even though her mind was so obviously gone? (obviously it wasn't legal, I'm just speaking hypothetically.) It's more pain and misery for the people around the patient than it is for the patient, in such cases.

This is an interesting topic, Carlie, and not one with a clear solution!

message 3: by Carlie (last edited Dec 12, 2008 10:44AM) (new)

Carlie | 86 comments I wish there were more discussions about voluntary euthanasia as I think it would lead to people thinking about how they want to live. It's important that these discussions occur so that people learn about living wills and do something about it. I have not signed my living will, it's on my desk at work right now (and has been there for a year) but I have made my sisters and my husband aware of my wishes to not live as a vegetable.
I wonder how many people on here have actually signed a living will.

Also, I think it's important to note how long you would be willing to live as a vegetable. I can't decide yet for myself but would a year as a vegetable be okay as long as you know for sure you would return to a normal life?

message 4: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Carlie,
If you are serious about enforcing your living will I would strongly recommend you signing it. Having the will unsigned may actually create just the opposite affect you wish.
An attorney to easily argue that had you truly wanted your wishes to be carried out you would have signed it.
I personally feel it is up to those that remain to decide the best course of action. There are too many variables to make a definative statement ahead of time.
What is more important to me at this moment...
How am I living my life today? I refuse to be among the walking dead! This life is a gift...Am I living it to its full potiential?

With my whole heart,

message 5: by Wendy (last edited Dec 14, 2008 06:23PM) (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments Carlie, you should consult the appropriate state agency or website for specifics about what is required in your state for your living will to be considered valid. I was involved in getting the law passed in Oregon to establish a living will in Oregon. The law has been modified over time but the forms do require a signature. Most hospitals offer them to patients upon check-in to the hospital and require a signature...

I think we have already passed the point of no return in terms of the growth in human population at which we can minimize degradation of our environment and the using up of resources so as to stave off future die-offs of massive numbers due to starvation, disease, or climate-change-driven problems...and we are seeing more and more species in jeopardy of extinction. The best we can hope for is based on reducing population growth rates by making birth control,and family planning a world-wide practice, recognizing that it is prefereable to prevent births to promoting ways to "cull" the population thru war, disease, violence, starvation..etc. In this of course, we have to overcome those who offer religious objections against mandatory motherhood,and "going forth and multipying" as God's will, and their mindless faith that they have no repsonsibility for children born but to die in misery due to overpopulation and poverty. These assume abortion is murder and are judgemental about those who voluntarily choose to abort... but their own using up of the world's resources, dooming others children in the present and future generations of children to die from want is something they refuse to think about, much less take any responsibility for.
Hopefully, we can reduce the rate of population increase to buy us time to change what people choose to do in terms of reproducing. Hopefully, many more will choose to adopt or care for children who already are born rather than clinging to the illusion that it is better to bring "one's own" into existance.

message 6: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Wendy,
While I will honor you and your concern for this planet, I can only hope that you can honor those that have a different point of view. Anytime I call someone else's believe an "illusion" it serves me to look again. Can you call referring to someone's believes as "mindless faith" anything but judgment and being in a state of rightness?
The biggest challenge in this life is to be willing to see the world from someone else's perspective.
I invite you to put away the judgments and take the time to truly get to know the other side of the issue. I believe that is the key to not only peace in this world, but finding lasting solutions to problems.
With my whole heart,

message 7: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments Colleen,
yes. It is a judgement..mine only, of course. I know other people have different points of view. The 911 bombers obviously had a different point of view on the rationality of what they were doing ..and believed that they were martyrs who would immediately go to Paradise and be honored for their deed. However, I do not honor such different points of view that result in needless suffering and the death of innocents. Do you? You may judge me and criticize me more if you wish. We both obviously think our own judgement is right.
With my whole mind,

message 8: by Shannon (new)

Shannon  (giraffe_days) It's a small thing but it's probably a good idea that we let people - our families - know about our wishes while we're still sound of mind and body. I'll tell anyone who'll listen that I want to be cremated and have my ashes spread under roses (they love ashes!) - hopefully in my own garden if I have one at the time! - after donating my organs, if they're any use. I can't go so far as to offer my body for science or medical students, sadly. I feel bad about it but...

A Living Will - that's a good idea, I don't think I've heard of it before.

message 9: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Wendy,
Every day I am working on having no judgments of anyone or anything because I feel it is not my place.
Instead I am working on truly listening and feeling what a person feels. My biggest challenge are people that feel "right" about being in judgment. Perhaps one day I will not be seen as judging you for judging others. Thank you for your honest feedback of my response. Here is the question for all of us to ponder (about 9/11): How many of us feel so right about our stands that we dehumanize those who look at life differently? Are we any better than those who flew the planes? What path of destruction can others notice in our wake? Is it really the numbers that count? Do I belittle anyone? How destructive am I? Jesus said it well -- "He without sin..."
With wholeness of both heart and mind,

message 10: by Irene (new)

Irene | 7 comments Why the fear of death? Lives that haven't been lived to their best abilities. Death is not a thief when you have lived. Why the fear of death?

message 11: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Today I attended the funeral of a 48 year old man who know what living was all about. Tell his two teeage children that they haven't been robbed of something precious!

message 12: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Kane | 2 comments Well, there is a difference between "sensless killing" and necessity. For example, pulling weeds to make room for a beautiful rose bush. If the weeds weren't pulled, the rose would be choked without enough room to blossom. If a deer is sick, wouldn't you want to put it out of it's misery? If your dog that you've had since you were a little child became ill and was about to die, wouldn't you help the little guy out? The fact that Nazis and terrorists took the necessity part a little too far doesn't mean that every killing is an act of murder. When done for the right reasons, killing can be helpful.

message 13: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments But why it is our place to decide if a human life is of value or not. My daughter at one time felt that anyone over the age of 70 wlas a burden to society.
Do I have the right to say that your life is no longer of value? Though I don't fear death, I choose not to welcome it before it's time. There is so much to learn from everyone. Why would I choose to stop the learning process because of inconvinance?

message 14: by Irene (new)

Irene | 7 comments Believe or not. Death can be a mercy. Only today my partner and I debated the urges and active measures of those that want to live till they are whatever. I lost a sister who valued health, life and ... went early. Left two young children. I ate this...I finally understand that Death calls you and all at some point beyond your desire. Think about Death. It will pave your path to an easier departure. I say with mercy, because she was beyond help. As I flew to witness her burial, I felt her presence in everything. Death was not an end to her presence, but certainly a death to the concrete display of her being.

message 15: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments I know that there is something beyond death. I simply feel that sometimes we forget to realize what a gift life is.

message 16: by Carlie (last edited Jan 06, 2009 06:02AM) (new)

Carlie | 86 comments Life at all costs including at the cost of life is unreasonable.
Death is also a gift.

message 17: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Carlie,
Yes, Death can be a gift.
I feel we get to look at the value of that life and not the cost. Does that person have an opportunity to be of value in this world or is it time to release them to be of value elsewhere?
For me that is the main question when we are chosing between "life" or death.

Having experienced making the decision for a loved one, I don't wish that on anyone. Have some regrets on some of that choice, but realize from that experience that those dying also have choice.

I decided to prolong her life long enough for the loved ones flying in to say "goodbye". She had other plans and was pronounced dead about 15 minutes before they arrived (She die when I stepped out of the room to make a quick phone call). Some people just wish to die alone I guess.

Some discussions are more real than others.
With my whole heart, Colleen

message 18: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 21 comments As a health professional that has watched many people die (between the ages of 1 week to 90+) I have to say that the fear of death can be a combination of many things. I just read a book called "sex and the origions of death" which said that all human dna has a desire to want to live and produce more dna so you could say that the desire to want to live has been coded in us. I also could see where those who fear the unknown would have an aversion of death. Perhaps it's because we want to get the most out of life, and to die means to experience loss and loss on any level leaves heart aches (and who would want to willingly put themself through emotional pain?) or maybe because death is something that is done alone. I do say that death is a gift. It is especially a gift for me to watch and be a sort of death midwife in this last transition that every human goes through. I say it is a gift because it makes me realize what a miracle it is that people do live and the complexitity it takes to stay alive.

message 19: by Dana (new)

Dana Miranda (unmoored) as kipahni talked of the fear of death being on the genetic level, as i am not a health professional, i will talk in terms of the human psyche, or rather just by perspective.

as carlie first posed in the first message why are people fascinated with 'saving' lives i would say the common response is that one either fears the unknown, is thoroughly in love with life (which i doubt), or one has a need for immortality (for one fears that one's existence can be inconsequential). for myself, i found after awhile that i want to live, from depression i want to create a life that is in tune with an ubermensch that is strictly be, or at least strive for that. i agree however no matter what the reasons why we want to save lives we must confront our obsession with life and our greater fascination with death. those who support organizations that which to cure diseases and lengthen life, think that this will better themselves or a loved one, i.e. a common thinking, if one can save a life their own can be saved.

yes, the earth can not support a dense population, and human's are the only creative animals thoughtful enough to go around a economy's equilibrium point to that of extinction. that being said, the medical field and case studies have been brought about to a point in modern day as simply a luxury. instead of emergency situations, medicine is now about case prevention and the lengthening of life. to say this wrong might be true, but this has all been caused by our own culture, degenerated as it may be.

Colleen wrote: "But why it is our place to decide if a human life is of value or not. My daughter at one time felt that anyone over the age of 70 wlas a burden to society.
Do I have the right to say that your lif..."

in truth that an older life is a burden to society, even thoughts and ideas become muddled in old age, even experience given may not be needed, but it is a luxury and a delight to still have these experiences around. life is enhanced by other's perspectives not burdened. to seek society's enhancement is man's greatest undoing, an individual must never be more concerned with the wealth of a nation while neglecting the wealth of a man.

not to be rude but you could say to your daughter, why should i be inconvenienced by the process of her life, for then she would learn of the inconvenience of a child, or does she think that a burden only falls to the able.

life is never of 'no' value until one forsakes the right to their own life.

message 20: by Kylie (new)

Kylie (conflictofinterest) | 1 comments Death is abhorred simply because the only thing any human unconditionally knows how to do is to live. Death is the great mystery, and the funny thing about human beings is that mysteries irritate them.

message 21: by Leeann (last edited Sep 18, 2010 12:24PM) (new)

Leeann (leeannhoward) | 5 comments Dana said, "yes, the earth can not support a dense population" This is a completely false statement. There has been a study ( I do not remember by whom the study was conducted) that proves that the current population of the entire world EVERY LAST HUMAN BEING could live in the state of Texas. Each family or single person living in his own home (NOT "his or her" this is terribly grammatically incorrect!!!!!! Though it is politically correct, it is completely moronic and unnecessary) could have both a front yard and back yard albeit small. The rest of the entire earth would be either completely unused, except by animals, or used as farmland to support mankind's population. The earth, therefore, could CERTAINLY support an extremely dense population. Just thought I'd clear that up. I just adore controversy.

message 22: by Leeann (new)

Leeann (leeannhoward) | 5 comments Is EVERYONE is this group secretively in support of eugenics?! I'm horrified!

message 23: by Leeann (new)

Leeann (leeannhoward) | 5 comments I REMEMBER WHO DID THE STUDY NOW! It is Steven W. Mosher, author of Population Control- Real Costs , Illusory Benefits. He is also the president of the Population Research Institute.

message 24: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 18 comments There is no doubt room for everyone in Texas, but this is not much help in the overall scheme of things. What counts is not physical space, but one’s ecological “footprint”, or the area of the earth that is required to provide raw materials and recycle wastes for a given population. Ultimately, all resources come from the natural environment, and these must be produced or recycled in some way, which requires space.

Some estimate this as an average of about three or so hectares per person. This is just an average, and balances the low consumption subsistence farmers of the third world and the consumption crazed residents of North America. Taking the latter by itself, the figure may be around ten hectares per person, or more.

Giving all those crowed Texans room for their footprint changes the dynamic completely. Even accepting the lower figure means there are probably too many Texans already with its present day population. Taking the latter figure means there is no doubt at all.

We can probably stumble through to the nine billion or so people the UN predicts we will end up with as a world population, but certainly not if a substantial part of the world wants to have the current North American lifestyle. Something will have to change, or we will be in for increasing turmoil in future years.

message 25: by Bob (last edited Nov 21, 2010 10:58PM) (new)

Bob Prophet (prophetbob) | 5 comments After reading all the responses above, I'm left with several conflicting thoughts that I'd like to work through presently, obviously speaking of my own opinions as they currently stand (subject to shift and change in light of new information and experiences).

First off, I notice something missing in this discussion: the soul of the living. Ecological footprints matter, overpopulation matters, but so too does quality of life and soulful living. Not that many Americans are in tune with much that's honestly soulful, but that's not entirely the individual's fault considering the corporate-dominated society we live in and its ridiculous media/tv programming. Most people watch a great deal of television and are thence altered in terms of their expectations. Wants are fabricated -- advertising and propaganda are powerful psychological tools.

We Americans are responsible for the largest ecological footprints, it is true, but other countries aim to catch up. Nine billion people projected by 2040 is a sick, sad reality, I won't dispute it. Humanitarian crises plague much of the globe, manifesting in varying forms. Monoculture agriculture in the overdeveloped "first-world" provided by factory farms has sewn dependency to the masses. Most of us only know how to wave money around, having forgotten how to perform the work necessary to sustain ourselves. Political systems are corrupted to the core the world over.

A question I ask myself is whether this is a life worth living. Thinking about those who attempt suicide to end what ails them in this reality we've all helped co-construct, I'm left with the thought that 1.) a person has a right to do with their own body as they see fit, but 2.) why have we created a reality that is proving unbearable to so many people, and not only those who choose to end their lives but also plenty of the living? I read recently in the Wall Street Journal about Japan's high suicide rate and can't help but contemplate its correlation with their technological "advancements." Suicide is on the rise in the U.S. as well, despite all the available medical interventions and a mainstream culture obsessed with youth and living forever.

We face many problems in today's world, most of our own species' creation. We now live in a "man's world" dominated by man's imagination and strivings, hence why we've lost sight of the compassionate, realistic and nurturing side of life. Everything's about competition, when in reality our human drive toward competition appears more geared toward MASTERY, which includes competition to an extent but also involves bettering oneself (thereby focusing on one's own business rather than meddling in that of everybody else).

We've created economies where everything is commodified and nothing is respected as sacred. Life is reduced down to "expert" technicians' advice, whether that be to exercise, to eat right, to ingest a pharmaceutical drug or to undergo an expensive medical treatment. If a person is unhealthy, it is automatically their fault, nevermind the crap foods we're actively peddled and the lifestyles we're impelled to embrace (e.g., sitting in a cubicle all day to earn a paycheck). We blame the individual for damn near everything -- for getting sick, for not understanding what's going on in modern times, for being unhealthy, and for wishing to die (or, in this thread's case, for striving to live).

I don't know. The whole thing stinks to me. It's undeniable that the human species is behaving as a parasite upon this planet, and that likely a "culling of the herd" will prove inevitable eventually. But talk of deciding who should die? People over 70 have much to offer society, even if that's not taken into consideration by economic theorists. There's more to life than earning money. Our grandparents have much to teach us, and we young(ish) folks don't have all the answers (despite all the technology at our disposal). We've forgotten the human element over time, thinking only of costs and benefits and economies of scale. Some things in life cannot be fairly assigned a monetary value--a price--such as for a parent's love or a good teacher's impact.

I'm left pondering the significance of honest quality of life and how it's diminishing globally. Because of this, death certainly can seem a gift. But so is life, not simply to breathe and eat and move around, but to live a life worth living. Contributions to society can't so easily be assessed by our fancy, modern tabulations and complicated mathematics. There's more to life than statistics, numbers, equations, projections, money.

So when the question is framed that we're spending too much trying to keep people alive, I feel the need to take a step back in order to remember that costs shouldn't dictate everything in life. With that said, I am not in favor of extending people's lives beyond a 100 years and am not a fan of such theories as those proposed by Aubrey de Grey to extend human lives to 150 years and beyond. Because to me that sounds like an expensive project that will be limited to the wealthy few, leaving the rest of us to deal with decreasing life spans and diminishing quality of life as a result of our foods, exposure to contaminants, stress, and unnaturally sedentary lifestyles.

We could, and probably should, use these technologies for tackling issues more important than our vanities, but we're also up against dietary and environmental changes that seriously threaten to undermine our physiological (not to mention psychological) integrity while we remain living. To simply dismiss the unhealthy as ready to leave this world seems unfair when the causes are oftentimes man-made. There is value in locating the sources of key problems and changing course so as to alleviate human suffering. Populations will be controlled one way or another, and I personally favor suggestions that we curb our procreating.

Wendy said: "Hopefully, many more will choose to adopt or care for children who already are born rather than clinging to the illusion that it is better to bring "one's own" into existance."

I agree.

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