Skip to content

The fallacy of misplaced intrinsic value

“Dying used to be accompanied by a prescribed set of customs.  Guides to ars moriendi, the art of dying, were extraordinarily popular; a 1415 medieval Latin text was reprinted in more than a hundred editions across Europe.  Reaffirming one’s faith, repenting one’s sins, and letting go of one’s worldly possessions and desires were crucial, and the guides provided families with prayers and questions for the dying in order to put them in the right frame of mind during their final hours.  Last words came to hold a particular place of reverence.  These days, swift catastrophic illness is the exception; for most people, death comes only after long medical struggle with an incurable condition–advanced cancer, progressive organ failure (usually the heart, kidney, or liver), or the multiple debilities of very old age.  In all such cases, death is certain, but the timing isn’t.  So everyone struggles with this uncertainty–with how, and when, to accept that the battle is lost.  As for last words, they hardly seem to exist anymore.  Technology sustains our organs until we are well past the point of awareness and coherence.” — Atul Gawande, “Letting Go”

Published inEconomics

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.