October 23, 2019 | Detroit Today

Changing Attitudes Toward Death: Health Care, Grief and End-of-Life Planning

In the new book Everbody Wants to Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die,” preeminent bioethicists Amy Gutmann and Jonathan D. Moreno say that planning for our own demise is the best and only way to empower ourselves when it comes to leaving this world.

They write: ”How do we want to die? The question is both strange and obvious. It does not ask us ‘whether’ but ‘how.’ The two questions are yoked together in the human psyche. Our primordial will to live and anticipatory anxiety over dying easily overwhelm our ability to address how we want to die. The irony of course is that we can exercise some degree of control only over how, not whether, we will die. Yet we often find it hard to move beyond the shadow question that might somehow promise eternal life to the practical one that asks us to consider how we want to approach the circumstances of our death. When we do thoughtfully probe ourselves and our loved ones about how we want to die, we discover that our preferences differ, sometimes quite unexpectedly.”

“The background of the story is the way that our relationship with our doctors has changed,” Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today, noting that most American died at home before World War II. ”The more the doctors can predictably do to extend our lives, the better the tech gets, the more people would like to know what their doctors have in mind for them.”

“It has created a situation where the situation of tech is very technological. Hospitals are the most technologically advanced places in most communities, by far,” he continues, noting the ethical questions of whether and when to extend life despite the physical, emotional, and financial costs of doing so.

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