Until the Bitter End

I recently came across a podcast that poses an interesting question: how far should we try to live in the face of terminal illness or potentially fatal treatments?

Part of what is fascinating in the topic is how much doctor’s answers different from non-doctors. In a nutshell: doctors do not want many of the treatments and interventions that non-doctors want.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It might be that doctors know how much pointless suffering exists in trying to prolong life, it might also be the case that doctors see the suffering so frequently that they’ve developed a strong adverse feeling towards the idea of life prolongation.

What seems to be the case regardless of the doctor/non-doctor difference, is that people have different preferences in regards to how long they want to live their life and what interventions they want to have. Indeed people should be able to determine how long they want to live. And this leads us to the topic of euthanasia. There is much to say, but I’ll be brief and paraphrase John Perry (a philosopher at Stanford):

 The Beatles may be playing a song for 4 minutes, and suddenly notice that the drummer Ringo is not doing well and decide to cut the song short instead of going 5 minutes. This way, they’ll have a good 4 minutes song instead of bad 5 minutes song.

People should be free to have 4 minute songs out of their lives if they want. People should be able to prolong treatment as far as they want, or to refuse it as early as they want. And they should be able to ask for the recording to stop if they are no longer enjoying their song. It’s their song after all.


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