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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A fate worse than death

Cathy Rentzenbrink
Prospect Magazine
Originally posted March 18, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

We have lost our way with death. Improvements in medicine have led us to believe that a long and fulfilling life is our birthright. Death is no longer seen as the natural consequence of life but as an inconvenient and unjust betrayal. We are in an age of denial.

Why does this matter? Why not allow ourselves this pleasant and surely harmless delusion? It matters because we are in a peculiar and precise period of history where our technological advances enable us to keep people alive when we probably shouldn’t. Life or death is no longer a black and white situation. There are many and various shades of grey. We behave as though death is the worst outcome, but it isn’t.

Many years after the accident, when I wrote a book about it called The Last Act of Love, I catalogued what happened to me as I witnessed the destruction of my brother. I detailed the drinking and the depression. The hardest thing was tracking our journey from hope to despair. I still find it hard to be precise about exactly when and how I realised that Matty would be better off dead. I know I moved from being convinced that if I tried hard enough I could bring Matty back to life, to thinking I should learn to love him as he was. Eventually I asked myself the right question: would Matty himself want to be alive like this? Of course, the answer was no.

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