Monday, April 14, 2008

We have a deeply held desire

to not be dead. This according to ethicist Thomas E. Finucane at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Finucane ought to know, since he is a geriatrician and so has undoubtedly seen how strongly humans cling to life. I heard him last week during a seminar about longevity put on by the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism . Life looks a lot better as we get closer to leaving it, was his wonderfully succinct point. This becomes easier to understand with age, of course. It also explains the stories I've heard from people waiting for (mostly) loved ones to die, a process that often takes a while as the light of life dims.

1 comment:

Ashton Applewhite said...

I too made note of that comment of Finucane's at the Knight Seminar; he was terrific. He said, "The widespread, deeply-held desire not to be dead gives way a bit in very late old age, but it’s deeply held. Few people are truly reconciled to dying, and only those go into hospice. It requires a lot of luck, and some fabric to keep you from panicking." Gee, I hope I'm one of 'em, but that's probably hubris.
I also liked the quote that Finucane attributed to his father-in-law, which underscores your point above: “There are very few people who want to live to be 100, and most of those are in their late 90s’.”