Technology can prolong life, but we live to hasten death?

We have discussed the extension of life with new medical technology at great length: we can transplant organs to save a life, perform invasive surgeries to fix an organ, and even keep someone on life support when they fall into a vegetative state. It seems that as technology advances, we have more hope of keeping death away for at least one more day.

Ironically, many Americans live a lifestyle that would decrease their life expectancy. We love our fast food and we love our sodas. (Oh yes, we can’t forget that many of us smoke, too!) And eventually, many of us are diagnosed with diabetes, develop heart problems, and other issues due to our lifestyle. Then we seek help from our doctors and surgeons to fix these problems. According to the CDC, the leading cause of death is heart disease, followed by other preventable issues.

What I see is some kind of a vicious cycle. We slowly bring ourselves close to death – whether we are conscious of it or not – and when we are close, we ask our doctors to add more days to our lives so that we may go back to the things that almost killed us to begin with. Why would do people allow this to happen to themselves? Not only is it painful to suffer from heart disease, but it is also very expensive. Is it because the way people view life, or is death not something we think about on a daily basis? How much do we care about how long we live, or how we die? I have also talked to a friend on this, and we agreed that it is a slow suicide. This irony in our culture was brought to my attention when I found this YouTube video on The Heart Attack Grill (from Nightline, ABC News), which I think embodies this irony well although it is extreme.

The man in this video (the model/spokesperson for the Heart Attack Grill) dies at the age of 29 last year. The life expectancy in America is almost 80 years. And not to mention that another frequent customer in this clip also survived a coma and had several heart surgeries. Medicine has extended this man’s life when he would have died under normal circumstances. (A friend on Facebook updated me that the one in Arizona closed down after someone died.)

If we do not remember our deaths, then perhaps we live as if we are immortal. This seems contradictory to how the Romans viewed life and death. Even when they were enjoying themselves or celebrating for a victorious battle, they were reminded of their own deaths.

Memento mori. Remember you will die.

– Michelle

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