Death may well be the last taboo subject in modern Western society. The comedian Woody Allen is humorously quoted as saying, "I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens!" And yet while we try to put the topic out of our minds, a clear understanding of our mortality is so important in bringing clarity to our complex and at times challenging lives. As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said two years before he died, "Remembering I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."
In the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, one of the characters Yamaraja asks, "What is the most wonder-full thing in the world?" The answer he is given:
“Hundreds and thousands of living entities meet death at every moment, but a foolish living being nonetheless thinks himself deathless and does not prepare for death. This is the most wonder-full thing in this world.”
On today's podcast we have the privilege of speaking to Professor John Wyatt. John is Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at University College, London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge University. He is married to Celia and and they have three grown-up sons.
John has written extensively on the subject of medical ethics and his latest book is entitled, "Right To Die? Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and End of Life Care."
It is an important book that sensitively explores this difficult subject with both compassion and intellectual rigour.
Do join us for this discussion where we explore:
- Why dying well is something we all need to think about, even though we instinctively want to avoid the subject.
- How valuable is a human life, especially a life that cannot reach its full potential?
- Are some people's lives so painful and full of suffering that they are not worth living?
- We naturally assume that doctors, nurses and health professionals are caring and compassionate, and have our best interests at heart when it comes to these complex issues. Why is it not as straight forward as that?
- What are lessons we learn from history about assisted suicide, assisted dying, eugenics and euthanasia?
- Those who advocate for euthanasia and assisted dying talk less about pain reduction and more about choice and control. Why is that?
- Why is it important to talk about these issues not just in a theoretical way, but with tears in our eyes?
- How the United Kingdom is a world leader in end of life and palliative care.
- How contrary to popular perception, becoming dependent on others and getting old are not necessarily evil or bad things.
- Why, as is commonly expressed, dying suddenly in your sleep with no warning may not be the best way to die at all.
- How does the Bible look at suicide and suffering that reaches the point of despair?
- How does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ speak to these issues?
- In the light of all this what does it mean to die well?
What thoughts, comments and reflections does this important subject raise for you?