Monday, September 26, 2005

Death Protocol

Category: Life Winners

I would like to die in the following manner:

First of all, I want to live until I decide that living isn’t enjoyable anymore.  Then I want to enjoy dying.

Because I want to feel that my decision is justified and honorable, I would like to have discussions about it with peoplewho care for me.

I would like to have children so that when I die I can imagine that I’m not really dying.  I would like to have these children of mine with me when I die.

I would like to have my friends with me when I die, and I would like to be with my friends when they die, if any of them choose to go before I do.

I want to be comfortable as I lose consciousness for the last time.

I want to show the people I love that I can face death courageously.  I want them to hold me if I find that I cannot.  I want to be able to change my mind at the last minute.

I want them to understand why I feel that it is my time to go.

I want my death to be a big deal while I’m still alive.  I want to try to find pleasure in life even up to the last moment.  I want to go out with a bang.  I want my death to be the best rush of my life.

I know I must die eventually, and I want to do all that I can to prevent it from hurting the people I love.

I don’t think death should carry with it the obligation to mourn.  I think mourning should be an individual affect, reserved for tragedies which the individual could not control.

The purpose of this piece is to suggest the following:

  • People should be given ample opportunity to choose when they will “shuffle off.”
  • Such a choice is like the choice to get married, to have children, to enter a religion, etc. In other words, this choice should not be made lightly and should be accompanied, as those other choices are, by somewhat lengthy periods of weighing the results.
  • Once the decision is made, it should be reversible until as close to the moment of its execution as possible, much like the case of marriage, where the option exists to leave at the altar, sometimes to the great relief of some in attendance.
  • The execution of the decision should be accompanied by rituals so that its significance can be fully understood and accepted.
  • Accidental death could be objectively regarded as tragic if there were a death protocol, whereas without one, it is tempting to argue that “you gotta die somehow.”

The Death Protocol is a means by which humans can accept death.  Those who truly do not wish to be here would more easily express themselves and experience the understanding and love of their family and friends.  The family and friends would not be badgered by the struggle between our currently presumed duty to preserve life and the wishes of the elders we love and respect.

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Old Comments

  • Your being on earth is an accident, no?  Or rather, you did not have any choice. You could not choose not to be born. Which is perhaps a good thing.

    Therefore your wish to at least be able to control your own exit is understandable - but perhaps not such a good thing. This earth will then be covered by very, very old men and women - with the young ones working hard to care for them. hmmm

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  06:27 PM
  • How peculiar that you foresee such a problem should I get my wish.  I am wishing to be allowed to die earlier than otherwise, if I want to.  Of course, if I can’t help but die, then off I go.  But when I am able to remain alive and I feel it isn’t worth it, then I would want my choice to leave to be respected.

    Your response seems more appropriate to all who insist that life is so sacred that even an individual who has it ought to be prevented from giving it up when he wants to.  Perhaps you are presenting a red-herring just to confuse them.

    There is one point about your reply that gets me.  If I and others were to prolong our lives unnaturally, there is a question of whose resources we use to do this.  If we earned the resources previously, then isn’t our choice to use them justified?  If it is the resources of the young, then what business do the young have accepting us as a burden, if not because they love us and want us to stick around?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  03:48 AM
  • If my comment has given the impression, that life is so sacred, that it should be artificially prolonged, then I am sorry. This is not what I wanted to convey. I agree with you one hundred percent. I myself do not want to remain on this earth if living is a burden to me or to my loved-ones or to society.
    Still, I envisage an insurmountable problem if everybody could decide when to “shuffle off”. For instance: Who would assist you, should you not be able to decide (healthwise)? Who will decide for you, even though you might have discussed this with family and friends? Take the case of you having a stroke. You are paralysed and lie helplessly in bed, not being able to even speak. Ok, you might have stipulated beforehand that should you have a stroke and be paralysed, then xyz should assist you in leaving this earth. But would xyz actually do this? You say that this decision should be reversible. Who decides this if you cannot? The death protocol would have to be thicker than the bible to be able to treat everybody fairly when it comes to death wishes.

    As to the thought that the young ones would gladly look after their elders - I do not know whether this is the case in the country where you live, but in my country which has a small population, there are many old people in “senior homes” waiting futilely for family to visit them or just to phone or send a card (regardless of them being rich or poor). For this reason I would support your death protocol - but I must say immediately - thank goodness, this is just a hypothetical discussion. smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  07:22 AM
  • psst,

    Pass me some of that kool-aid. I’ve seen the light. I was born a burden, and it’s only gotten worse lately…Sorry…

    —Dr. Kevorkian

    Posted by deminizer  on  11/02  at  11:22 AM
  • Leserin,

    I think I see a disparity between our ideas of what I am proposing.  I do not propose it as enforcible legislation, or even government policy in any way.  I am anti-statist.  Choices and Independance sic] are instructive in understanding why I like the phrase “public policy is a disaster at every turn.”  No, I propose death protocol as a tradition, like wakes and funerals, birthday parties, and mid-winter celebrations.

    The insurmountable problems you mention are not specific to death, but to life.  “I should be able to eat what I want” leads to all the same problems.  If a politician were to consider these things and wonder “what law can we pass to accomplish this” then certainly, the Death Protocol would have to be the size of a Bible.

    I think the problem of people in senior homes being lonely and neglected by their descendants has some roots in socialism and the welfare state.  Government programs like Social Security here in America make it easy for old people to be physically and financially independent from the younger generation.  But no law can be passed or government program instituted that can make them psychologically and emotionally independent.  This acts as a kind of trap because people tend to take psychological and emotional support for granted, while struggling for physical and financial means.  The program looks like a way for the senior to be independent, but it only address what money can buy.  In seeing that they are not needed for financial or physical support, the younger ones then abandon their elders to some degree.

    You have made me realize something very important: An idea’s value is often very dependent on whether it is legislated or simply introduced as a tradition, available to those who choose it.  I like to say “Choice is sacred.”  That’s why I am anti-statist.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  12:40 PM
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