Mar 1, 2008

Do you agree we donate to our own deaths?

Do you want to share?

Do you like this story?

Or do you share the more fatalistic notion that people tend to die when their time comes? Almost all of us believed that psychological factors can influence death. Perhaps half of us felt most deaths are caused by events over which we have no control, or felt most deaths include some conscious or unconscious participation of the person who dies.

One coroner’s office in California classifies the intentionality in deaths as high, medium, low, and absent. Not counting suicides, records kept over a two-year period disclosed that one-forth of all deaths showed some degree of intention, whether the person was aware of it or not. Among accidental deaths, 44 percent showed some degree of intentionality. For homicides, which are often considered accidental, the figure was 54 percent.

People often hasten their own death through self-destructive habits. A survey in England found that nearly 40 percent of the 250 people under 50 who died in hospitals had contributed to their own deaths by overeating, drinking, smoking, or ignoring their doctors’ orders. Practically all those who died of cancer of the throat and lungs were addicted to cigarettes. Many of those who died of heart attacks were grossly overweight or smoked. Several of the heart attack victims had had symptoms long before consulting their doctors. And two of the diabetics did not follow the prescribed treatment.

After his mother’s premature death from a heart attack at the age of 42, Elvis Presley once told others he probably wouldn’t make it past 30. Later, Presley died of a heart attack at 42 years of age, precisely two days later in the same month his mother had died. But the conditions surrounding Elvi’s death suggest his chronic drug abuse also hastened his own death.

Do such experiences make us hesitant to estimate how long we expect to live, for fear that expecting it may make it so?

In any event, even when people are dying, they not only sense the fact, whether told or not, but often can estimate the approximate time of their deaths even more accurately than others.

It is the denial of the death that is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives, for when you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes to easy to postpone the things you know that you must do. You live your life in preparation for tomorrow or in remembrance of yesterday, and meanwhile, each day is lost.

In contrast, when you fully understand that each day you awaken could be the last you have, you take the time that day to grow, to become more of who you really are, to reach out to other human beings.