Why are we so afraid of Death?

In the Annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC, this Monday, Sir Terry Pratchett offered a perhaps controversial view on medically assisted suicide in case of a terminal illness. Since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, he is openly furthering the debate about assisted suicide in Great Britain. He is proposing to be used as a test case for a tribunal that would be made up of specialists in palliative care, and hopefully in ethics as well. Most important criterion to be on the tribunal is to be over 45 years of age, in order to hopefully having gained a little wisdom and compassion. Both are needed to decide over life and death. The more important underlying idea of such a tribunal and assisted suicide in general is however not just compassion for someone who suffers from a debilitating illness, but that person’s right to choose. The debate about the topic seems to be merely about the laws that are so far forbidding assisted suicide but might allow it in the future under certain special terms, so that those who assist are not longer in danger of prosecution. Or it is fuelled by the Church which necessarily holds the view that it is killing and therefore to be condemned. But as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, it should be about the ill person’s right to Death. In our fear of dying, we seem to have forgotten that it is a natural process that is part of life. Plato believed that death would free the soul, so that it could reach perfection. And even a determinist cannot claim that we don’t have the choice to decide over our life, even if in that view we have no sway over the events in our life. The right to Death should be as fundamental as the right to life!?

Related Articles:

Back to Basics in Bioethics: Reconciling Patient Autonomy with Physician Responsibility
By Antonio Casado da Rocha, University of the Basque Country
Vol.3, December 2008
Philosophy Compass

Legal and Moral Responsibility
By Antony Duff, University of Stirling
Vol.4, December 2009
Philosophy Compass

4 thoughts on “Why are we so afraid of Death?”

  1. It is just a bit silly that the criterion is to be to be over 45 years of age. It is pretty apparent that age has nothing to do with either the ability to be compassionate or with the insight that people have dignity and the right to a dignified ending of their life. As a matter of fact, age is probably the least significant marker in all the factors that are at play here.
    Pratchett of all people should know that!

    1. In general I would agree with you. However, I can understand Pratchett that he wants those people who would judge this final action to be of a certain age because they have seen a bit more of life than someone very much younger. Where to draw the line? Because I do believe there needs to be one.

  2. I am against the assisted suicide or euthanasia. The why is this: life means to be, death means not to be, and between to be and not to be I opt for the former.
    When the death does not affect the person who is speaking or writing about, it is easy, very easy to say: why to worry about the death? It is a natural process! But when the death comes and knocks to your own door the things change. All my life I have been feared death. Nevertheless the fear of the death not always is negative. In my case it started my spiritual quest of searching for God, the immortal soul, the mind, the life after the death. Because of this quest I began to travel and in these travels I came across to many extraordinary people who helped me. These encounters were in Rome, in London, in Paravati, in New York and so on.
    The book I have recently written deepens many religious issues. I want to draw it to your attention, as you may be interested in it. The title is “Travels of the Mind” and it is available at http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/TravelsOfTheMind.html
    If you have any questions, I am most willing to offer my views on this topic.
    Ettore Grillo

    1. Thank you very much. I will definitely look into it. I can understand that people are afraid of death and the process of dying, but I do believe that it is possible to overcome that by accepting death as something that will inevitably happen. Otherwise I would not have accepted the death of family members and friends. And the point where I agree with Sir Terry Pratchett, is simply that he wants to decide over his own life and not leave it in the hands of some doctors and nurses he does not even know. I think that is very understandable.

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