Letter: Death Without Guilt

To the Editor:

We live too long! I would urge society, seminaries and medical schools to lead a mission to accept and allow death to occur at an earlier age for people facing life-threatening medical problems — and to allow that to occur without guilt. Through articles and advertising, we promote longevity, avoiding the resulting decrepitude of body, mind and emotions. We subject the infirm to exhausting procedures leaving many with further complications.

Assuredly, there are some who have inherited genes of predecessors who lived into a relatively healthy old age, but not many.

Extolling the rewards of old age, the promised “golden years,” we avoid, even deny, that death is inevitable. Tradition, hope and faith, born when we did not live as long, have taught that allowing death to develop is a failure, sinful or immoral.

As we retire in relatively good health, the retirement industry expands, promoting wellness programs, life-long education, a variety of entertainment, volunteer groups and committees to oversee these many activities. They promise to reward “independence” with a sense of “community,” “purpose” and “belonging.” We compliment ourselves in our charitable effort to care for the elderly, to discover that we may only distract and protect them from loneliness and boredom by our occasional notice and visits.

Now we find that end-of-life expenses threaten to outstrip our ability to pay for them. Culturally, we have brought this on ourselves, ironically in the name of progress, love and care.

Nevertheless, having lived well, let us begin to think about accepting earlier “opportunities” to die.

Jack Hemenway