Death Only by Choice

“Every death is regretable” is certainly not true. For many suffering in a terminal illness, death comes as a blessing. A peaceful passing away after a life well lived is desirable. Also, unfortunately, there are people who cause so much misery that their death is a reason for celebration.

However, in a situation focused on preservation of life, such as an ICU, it is true. There is regret about the failure to attain the goal of preserving life. More generally and rather vaguely, it expresses truly the thoughts and sentiments of the medical community whose focus is on preserving life. However, the belief fully expressed is “Every death is regretable as a failure of medical techniques for preserving life.”

For instance, consider a surgeon called in to operate on a patient he does not know. If the patient dies in surgery, he regrets his failure to save the life.

Even more generally and vaguely, it is true about society as a whole when society takes on the perspective of a medical community as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Society as a whole is forced to adopt a medical perspective by being compeled with lockdowns, face masks, social distancing etc. to participate in controlling spread of the virus. The world-wide restrictions develop a sense that the whole world is a place for protecting health, if not actually a hospital.

From this medical perspective “Every death from COVID is regretable” truly describes the societal belief. When the medical perspective is taken COVID drops out, shortening the belief to “Every death is regretable.” For the medical perspective does not regret death only from specific causes. Death is regreted as a failure of techniques for saving life.

I have read statements of government officials that not a single death from COVID is acceptable.

Long term imposition of the pandemic restrictions along with much else in our soceity leads to taking a medical perspective on human life a dominating perspective. Medical services, pharmecutical products and insurance for using them are major factors in our economies. It is the scientific way of looking at at life. The whole world is like a hospital. From this dominating perspective there arises the belief that every death is regretable as a failure of science.

Putting together this belief that every death is regretable as a failure of science with the confidence that every death is scientifically preventable, we confront the aspiration of the medical perspective that a regretable situation is to be eliminated. But eliminating death is not regretable. Even if scientific techniques develop to a stage at which brain death can be indefinitely delayed, that leads to lives not worth living. Nature sees to it that deaths are to be desired.

Does not, then, the medical perspective aspire to a contradictory situation of desiring what is regretable? No. There is a way out of the contradiction. For deaths which are not failures of scientific techniques for saving lives need not be regreted. Deaths by choice need not be regreted..

The aspiration of the medical perspective is to have death only by choice. But to bring about deaths by choice requires acting on the intention to directly take a human life. Intentionally taking a human life is in direct conflict with the Fifth Commandment “Thou shall not kill!”

So, with respect to my previous posts on how we deafen ourselves to Divine Commands, this post points our that adopting what I have called “the medical perspective” leads us toward not “hearing” the Fifth Commandment.