You, in particular …
“You, in particular, are going to die.” This was the headline of a story by writer Michael Ventura that SN&R printed on its cover a long, long time ago. The piece had to do with our avoidance of the topic of death and subsequent inability, in many cases, to really live life. Today, that story is mostly remembered for its headline and the absolute certainty with which it states the undeniable truth about life. You, in particular, are going to die. How important should it be, then, to experience a death that is worthy of a life—your life?
When polled, most Americans—regardless of religious beliefs—say they would prefer to die at home in their bed, as pain free as possible, surrounded by loved ones. But that’s not how it usually works. Three-quarters of us are actually predicted to die in a hospital, nursing home or other medical facility surrounded by tubes and monitoring machines. This is, at least in part, because death is a taboo subject—we don’t like to talk about it, think about it or make plans for it—often even when facing a terminal diagnosis. The dysfunction is reinforced by Western medicine, which can tend to focus its powers on a disease instead of the person with that disease. And this comes at a cost, especially at the end of a life.
We’re planning a special issue on end-of-life choices. We invite you to help us; we want to hear your stories. What makes a good death? Who should make decisions about end-of-life care? How, exactly, can an individual go about choosing quality over quantity if they wish to do so, as the end nears?