We all die. Death is natural. Death is the logical conclusion of life. Death is nature’s way to clean up and make space for the newly born. Death is a mere illusion. All living things must die. The search for immortality is foolish and immoral….
We all hear statements like these right from our childhood, ingraining deeply into our minds the belief that death is something unavoidable and inevitable. But is that really true?
I, Human decides to take a deeper look into this age-old belief and discover a rational answer to the question: is death inevitable!
It occurred to me the other day that when people speak of death, they are often talking of very different things. For instance, when we say “we all die”, we are talking about the human body stopping to function as a single whole organism which, actually, is very different from the death of a single living cell.
So to answer the question, is death inevitable, we must first clearly define what exactly do we mean by “death”.
Most people think of death as an “event” bound to occur sooner or later which will terminate their life. This might appear to be true at first until we think a little deeper.
Lets run a simple thought experiment as follows:
In 1901, at the age of 21, Mary fell off a boat and drowned in the river for she could not swim. Her husband John immediately jumped in and rescued her but by the time she was dragged out of the river, she had stopped breathing and her heart had stopped. To everyone around her, she appeared dead.
“It was fate! It was her time” said her husband. Then they buried her.
In 2001, at the age of 21, Mary-II drowned in the sea. A few minutes later, her husband John-II rescued her and brought her to shore, but by this time, she had stopped breathing and her heart had stopped beating. To everyone around her, she appeared dead.
But John-II has had first-aid training and so he immediately performed CPR on her and just a minute later, Mary-II came back to life, started breathing and her heart started beating again.
What is the difference between the Mary of 1901 and the Mary-II of 2001?
Was the Mary of 1901 really dead? Was it really fate? Was it “her time”? OR, was it just the lack of knowledge of her husband John of 1901, who did not know what CPR is and how to perform it, which resulted in Mary’s “death”?
In this thought experiment, we used “drowning” as cause of “death”. But it could be anything. Any kind of damage to Mary’s body, which John or anyone else around her did not know how to repair, would have resulted in Mary being declared “dead”.
We all know that countless millions of people died by something as simple as malaria before penicillin was discovered. After penicillin was discovered, all what was needed to save the life of a person suffering from malaria was to give him/her one single tablet of penicillin. Just one tablet.
So, all those millions and millions who died of malaria before penicillin was discovered, was it their fate? Was it their time? Or was it simply the lack of knowledge of people around them to know how to save them?
What we can essentially learn from this thought experiment is this:
Any damage to human body, no matter how severe, does not and need not necessarily result in that person’s “death” if the people around that person KNOW how to help and repair that damage.
What, then, is death?
Would it be fair to conclude, that no matter at what time and in what place I live, my death will be the ability of people around me to help me when my body is severely damaged?
Death, therefore, is not an inevitable event. It is a measure of the knowledge of people around us. When a person’s body is damaged to a level, which cannot be repaired with our existing medical know-how and technology, WE declare that person “dead”. At what point we do that depends not on fate or divine timing but on the level of our knowledge and ability to help.
By declaring someone “dead” we are essentially making a value judgement on ourselves; we are saying “we just don’t know anymore what to do”! Every single person we loved and who died had to die because we FAILED to help.
Interesting thought, no?
If nothing else, this should make us think about the importance of learning basic life-saving skills and, as an intelligent species, the importance of dedicating our maximum resources and efforts to research and development of life-sciences. Who wants their loved-ones to die? Especially if, as we now know, they die only due to our failure to help them. Not due to some “fate” or “inevitability”.
Have a question or a different opinion? Found something I wrote which is scientifically or rationally incorrect? Just want to share your thoughts? Please go ahead and comment. I would love to hear what you think. A healthy open discussion is the best way to move forward.