Some Very Logical Thoughts about Death

The maxim that there are “two things you can’t avoid in life, death and taxes,” is only half true. Many people do seem to avoid taxes. Death is the one certainty,

and at times like this we need to think about it logically.

The first point to be clear on is that there is an epidemic. This means that more people than usual will die. It matters not what we do, or what we don’t do, or how we do it. The simple fact is that rather more people than usual will die. The news media should not be bleating on about it, because it is not news. We all know already.

The second point is that not all deaths are equal. You probably know someone who has lost an ageing parent. You possibly also know someone who has lost a young child. If you do, you will be in no doubt at all about the massive difference in emotional impact of those two events. That difference is not just a matter of irrational emotion. There are tight, logical reasons for the difference. Consider this: when a teenager dies, there is a loss of some fifty years of active, fulfilled life. A life of work, leisure, raising children, expression of talent, and more. With an eighty-year-old who has pre-existing health conditions, perhaps including dementia, the loss is not the same; perhaps a few years of life that already lacks quality. My father-in-law remained compos mentis to the end, and declared that he was “ready to go.” My father and mother-in-law, at the end, had dementia; they were not happy, and didn’t know if they were going or coming. Ninety per cent of Covid19 deaths occur among the elderly, and most of those in people with pre-existing conditions. We should be thinking in terms of Quality Years Lost rather than an absolute numbers of deaths. Think that way, and the virus loses much of its shock value.

Third, we have always considered that there are things worth dying for. The cry “Death or Liberty” is one expression of this. In wars, we may fight for our liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, democracy, or frequently for economic advantages that improve the life of the majority. In fighting for these things, we accept death and destruction, even though the deaths here are mainly people in their prime of life. If we are prepared in war to accept the death of some for the benefit of the many, why not in the war against Covid19?

Finally, in the present situation, it is not even clear that the lockdown will save many lives. It will spread out the Covid19 deaths over a longer period (flattening the curve.) Deaths from other causes will rise as people fail to get treatment for heart disease, cancer, depression and much more. Every day of lockdown adds another day to all Hospital waiting lists. And in addition, the economy goes into free-fall, with all the dreadful implications of that.

The only good news here is that we may avoid the taxes. We need to think logically about the other issue. Do we just try to “Save Lives“, or do we also try to protect the lifestyle and liberties that we have worked for, and fought for, and already died for, over many, many years?