Thoughts on death and illness

I was listening to a discussion about the ethics of stem cell research on NPR as I was driving home this evening. The substance of the arguments on both sides wasn’t what interested me – what fascinated me was the underlying theme that seems so obvious to me – we’re all terrified of death. We’re all terrified of dying, and we want to do whatever we can to prolong our lives and prevent disease. But we can only prolong it – it always comes – and we can’t really prevent pain. We can only live with it.

I understand the impulse to do as much research as we can to prevent Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and everything else. My own grandmother, the once vibrant matriarch of the family, is wasting away from dementia. My aunt continues to undego chemotherapy. It’s painful to see, to endure. In the immortal words of my cousin Doug: “Getting old sucks.”

Are there limits to how much we should delay the inevitable, trying to force back time? Is there a limit to how much money and energy we should invest in trying to cure diseases, when there will always be new diseases that will kill those we love, not to mention ourselves? When faced with a budget limit, should we give more and more money to medical research when there are people all over the world who die from the flu, hunger, malnutrition?

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~ by realsupergirl on June 10, 2004.

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