When suffering becomes pointless

Charles 2 Comments


In a very good article which addresses society’s need to address the consequences of technological advances in medicine, Dr Alex Lickerman says this:

The notion that dying is a right seems nonsensical to argue:  death is given to all of us equally without the need of anyone’s sanction.  The right to die well, on the other hand—well, that’s another matter entirely.  A good death is, in many cases, something our fellow human beings have great power to grant or deny, and is therefore, sadly, a right for which we must indeed fight. 

The notion that we’d even need to fight for the right to die well has only come to make sense relatively recently, within the last forty years or so.  Prior to that, our ability to prolong dying—meaning, keep extremely ill people going in hopes that they might overcome whatever health problem threatens even when the likelihood is vanishingly small—was actually fairly limited.  But with the advent of modern intensive care units and all the amazing technology that’s emerged in the last four decades, we can now stretch the quantity of out our last days often to weeks or even months.  Unfortunately, a similar stretching of quality hasn’t yet occurred; if anything, we see the opposite (to be fair, the same technology also stretches some lives to years and even decades, meaning it’s enabled some people to recover from insults that in the past would have undoubtedly killed them).

… … …

Though I’m pledged to prolong life where I can, I’m also pledged to alleviate pointless suffering.  Thus, I very much believe in the right of people to freely choose the method and time of their own demise when they find themselves in circumstances where such a choice has become the only option to relieve their pointless suffering.  We remain profoundly uncomfortable as a society with this position, but our own technological advances will eventually force us to embrace it.  As more and more people die in needless pain and more and more people sit watching, eventually, I believe, we will accumulate enough collective experience to make peace with the notion that what we currently do with our pets is far more humane than what we mostly do with each other.


Read the entire article here


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gloria mundi
10 years ago

An intelligent, humane and helpful article – many thanks, Charles.

Catherine Corless
10 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. This is the opinion expressed privately by many members of the medical profession. So why do so few people bother with an Advance Directive? http://lovinglymanaged.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/13/