Good Life, Good Death?
• In the 19 century, how a person died was crucial to determining how well he or she had lived
• We often don’t have the opportunity to shape the end of our lvies awe might choose
• One in three have much control over the way he/she ds
• Most, died unexpectedly or by illness
• The goodness of death in two out of three people is then dependent on the way it is interpreted by the
• There is a diversity in opinion on the nature and meaning of death.
• Many people believe that a good life prepares for a good death
• “life” and “death” have always been companion ( they are both intrinsically related)
• Appropriate death = death we would choose for ourselves if we had the choice.
• Erikson’s theory – theory of death anxiety
3 Paths to death
1. World trade center
o Considered a “horrendous death”
o Victims had done nothing to provoke it
o No time for the victims to prepare
o Families were shattered, burdened with grief, deprived of companionship and support.
2. Socrates’ Death
o Father of philosophical thought
o Considered a “bad death”
o Miscarriage of justice, silence one of humankind’s greatest thinkers, depriving a great but
troubled citynation of invaluable citizen
o Considered a “tainted pathway to death”
o The symptoms are stressful, painful, and eventually debilitating
o Rejected by society “social death” to an extreme
A Father Dies: A Mission Begins
• Ira Byock: founder of American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and leading advocate for
improved care of terminally ill people
• Question – how do you relate to a person who has become dependent on a lifesupport system?
(Consciousness and responsiveness are impaired)
• Byock’s father was dependent on such a system and eventually recovered from it.
o When he did die, it was a home peacefully with family
• Byock’s concern: how people’s deaths are often chaotic due to our need to prolong life (ambulance,
sirens and CPR).
• Byock believes that a good death is more likely to occur within a supportive interpersonal framework
and without medical intervention.
A Shift in the Meaning of Life and Death
5 alternative :
1. Death is an enfeebled form of life
o Death is regarded as a release from infirmity, suffering and indignity
o Common types: suicide, systematic degradation and silent withdrawal from life 2. Death is a continuation of life
o The Christian view
o Salvation vs. damnation
3. Death is a perpetual development
o Many see it as a time for enrichment
o Elderly men and women may become more active, vigorous and strongly engaged in life
o “Finally discovering who I am after all these years and having the time of my life”
o regret theory: death anxiety suggests that people who consider themselves to have a full and
satisfying life are less anxious about death
4. Death is waiting
o Death as a spoilsport who turn out the lights and says “the party’s over” before we are ready to
5. Death is cycling and recycling
o People die in order for others to have a chance to live
The Golden Rule Revised
• Should: Do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves
• Observational: Everyday I see selfinterest, malice and indifference in human interactions”
• From so much suffering and death, the golden rule is flagrantly disregarded, and horrendous death
becomes a prospect when we do not feel a basic bond with people
• Division of the human race into US and THEM as been common mindset throughout history
o We may feel we should do right by others if they are not really others
o Although there are positive signs that we can develop a willingness and ability to feel ourselves a
part of the total human community.
Are we Live or on Tape? – Virtual Reality
• We have moved from realtime to virtual time
• Fact: the ear processes the sound in the same way whether the message comes live or on tape, or from
the living or the dead.
• Time rules: no mater how clever or religious we might be, time will takes its own course and with that
course, all that we hold dear, including life itself.
o Challenge: we can convert immediate experience to the