Posted by Peter Lawler
Heres an article I just published on that issue. Also read the excellent article by Ben Hippen in the same issue of THE NEW ATLANTIS.
Is it possible that in a society full of people who no longer consider life after death a possibility a dignified acceptance of death is going to be too much to ask or expect?
Kate, can you provide any justification for your "society full of people who no longer consider life after death a possibility" characterization? Last time I heard, a majority of Americans had, at the very least, some belief in an "afterlife."
Further, is it possible that, in a society full of people who DO consider life after death not only a possibility but a likelihood, a basic concern for the fate of our clearly apparent earthly home (among other things) is going to be too much to ask or expect?
Craig Scanlon, No, I can not, and you are right in the whole of what you say, there. I had read that, too, that most Americans believe in an after-life. I was thinking about our culture, which seems seems to me to reflect a people who live very much in the present and for the moment, whatever they profess to believe.
People speak all the time about "death with dignity," but I do not see that there is anything dignified in death. A dignified acceptance of death is not the same thing, but to accept the real humiliation (humbling, as in the ultimate betrayal of the soul by the body) of death with dignified acceptance seems to be a rare thing.
I knew a man who was facing death with great dignity, anticipating heaven. He had colon cancer for two years and it had spread to his bladder. All of his bodily waste functions were going to be a constant humiliation to him, after the second surgery. He would have taken death, but his family pressed him to live. A week before that scheduled surgery he was working on his pond, shaping the bank during a dry spell, with his tractor. There was something wrong with the machine and while he was effecting repairs, it flipped over, on top of him, crushing his skull. His twenty year-old son was standing right there, helping, but unable to prevent this from happening. It was a better death for my friend, (It must have been a good day for him, to be working on his property, with his son by his side) but there is no dignity in your blood and brains melding with the mud.
Kate, I must say that your response left me with more questions than answers. I think that the idea of "death with dignity" has more to do with people having a modicum of control over the way in which they die when they have some kind of degenerative and/or terminal illness. Its really not about looking dapper and dignified at the moment of death, its about avoiding pointless pain and anguish (and perhaps, to a much lesser extent, some accompanying embarrassments) at the end of an inevitable demise at the end of a disease/illness. From my perspective, your friends death didnt really lack dignity at all. Maybe it was disturbing and gross to an onlooker, but it wasnt undignified.
And Ill repeat my question. Im not sure if you overlooked it or ignored it; I know its not pertinent to kidney markets, but the nature of your question immediately brought to my mind the reformulation, which is:
Is it possible that, in a society full of people who DO consider life after death not only a possibility but a likelihood, a basic concern for the fate of our clearly apparent earthly home (among other things) is going to be too much to ask or expect?
Ashbrook Center at Ashland University | 401 College Avenue | Ashland, Ohio 44805 | (419) 289-5411 | (877) 289-5411 (Toll Free)