Friday, March 17, 2017

"Is Death in Trouble" - from the Hastings Center

Daniel Callahan wonders if death is in trouble. Have we pushed death back so far with the advances in medicine that we no longer die of old age? It's an interesting thought. Death may be intellectually inevitable but it's always touted as a "battle" and a "defeat." We expend billions looking to "wipe out" a condition only to have another take its place. I suppose what we're trying to do is flatten the aging curve so that there's an unexpected precipitous drop at the end rather than the dwindles. Heart attacks used to take us quickly, but now sudden death from a heart attack is in dramatic decline with cholesterol and blood pressure control. The unfortunate pervasive drug ads make us think that, yes, science will continue to solve that next problem for us, then the next. Really?

I wander into old age with a sense of unease. What's waiting for me? A fall with a broken hip? A lurking pancreatic cancer? A stroke? Or, God forbid, Alzheimer's. This is where a type of beneficent denial can help. Know the inevitable but get on with fun living - yes, a day at a time. Compartmentalize death. Expect loss, but move on. All easy to say, yet I'll keep trying as I close in to that point where the actuaries say I'm over the top. And I need to admit, it's not in my control.


  1. I suspect Death is the most successful enterprise on the planet -- it wins, 100% of the time.

    From my perspective at 70, what I want from Death is a clear signal, with enough time to tell my kids I'm okay with what's happening (because I know they don't believe me now, when I'm healthy), and a chance to have somebody bring my current four-legged companion to see me so they can know what's happening before I go. And then, begone.

    I definitely don't want the dwindles, but I'm fine with the idea that I won't have to die of diabetic coma or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

    And, for me any day is a good day for whatever comes.

  2. I am 80, loving life, yes, the medical profession has kept me in good shape. My husband and I find joy in "the small things". Both my folks died at 80, but I feel I have at least another good 10 years ahead of me. My Mother died of "sudden death" and I have told my kids that is the way I want to go, so "be prepared". Thanks for this blog! It keeps us thinking about how we want to face our later years!


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