Yes, it's a fact - within the next 120 years, every person alive in the world today will have died, and there is nothing that medical science can do about it.
Doctors are not Gods, despite what they may think. They will not, they cannot conquer death.
Doctors are not Gods, despite what they may think. They will not, they cannot conquer death.
Every person who smokes, is going to die
Every person who never smokes, is going to die
Every person who is "overweight", is going to die
Every person who is never "overweight", is going to die
Every person who uses illicit drugs, is going to die
Every person who never uses illicit drugs, is going to die
Every person who drinks alcohol, is going to die
Every person who never drinks alcohol, is going to die
Every person who fails to heed the advice of health advocates, is going to die
Every person who devotedly follows all the advice of health advocates, is going to die
Now the question comes - since we are all going to die, no matter what precautions we may take - is it justifiable for health advocates to force people to conform to certain lifestyles which those advocates claim will maximize the length of a person's life?
Death is inevitable, but health advocates such as the anti-smoking industry claim that they are justified in using punitive pressures of various kinds to force people to conform to their definition of "a healthy lifestyle".
Most people would probably agree that it is preferable for a person's death to be a "natural" death - but what does that mean?
The only definition of a natural death, in medical science, comes from pathologists. Their definition is this; "A natural death is a death that results from a natural disease process, distinct from a death that results from accident or violence."
All of the smoking related deaths involve natural disease processes; cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema - these are all "natural disease processes". Smoking-related deaths are "natural" deaths.
The concept of "premature" death is entirely statistical. A "premature death" is a death which occurs before the average age of death within a given population.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the average age of death by all causes in North America in 1994 was 70 years of age. An analysis of the CDC's own figures for the years 1990-1994 showed that the average age of death for smoking-related deaths was 71.9 years of age.
Some smoking-related deaths are therefore, statistically "premature" - but many are not. About 17% of smoking-related deaths occur at ages greater than 85, fewer than O.5 % of smoking-related deaths occur at ages less than 35.
It may be true that the incidence of chronic degenerative illnesses in the elderly population occur at lower rates for non-smokers, non-drinkers and those who have never been "over-weight", but that does not mean such persons have any guarantee that they will never develop these illnesses. Even if you were a health fanatic from the day you were born, the longer you live the greater the likelihood becomes that you will develop some kind of chronic degenerative illness. Human beings do not have a "life energy" that gets used up as time goes on, causing us to mysteriously die, in perfect health, in our sleep when it 'runs out'.
One of the world's most renowned pathologists, Dr. Ludwig Aschoff, stated that he had never found a case of purely natural death: autopsy had always revealed some pathological process as a cause.
Dr. Hans Selye of Montreal, probably the world's leading authority on human stress, asserted that in all his autopsies he has never yet seen a man who died simply of "old age", nor does he think anyone ever has.
Since death cannot be eliminated, the health sciences can only exchange one cause of death with another
Life expectancy at birth within the industrialised nations grew considerably in the 20th
century, from about age 35 for men and 37 years for women in 1900 to about age 70 for men and 77 years for women in 1994. The term "premature death" clearly is more meaningful in relation to persons who die between the ages of twenty-five and forty, than it is in relation to persons who die between ages of sixty-five and eighty.
You will see, from the charts below - that the tragedy of people being struck down at say, age twenty or thirty by tuberculosis, influenza or pneumonia was quite prevalent in 1900 - but deaths from cancer and heart disease were substantially more rare at that time. That's not because there were no people who smoked or drank or ate more than they probably should - it's because the chronic degenerate illnesses take time to develop. If you died of influenza at age 27, you hadn't had time to develop lung cancer - even if you'd started smoking at the age of 12.
Ironically, the large percentage of deaths due to lung and other cancers as well as heart disease and stroke in our society today, are therefore as much a consequence of improvements in economic standards of living and social, technological and medical advances, as they are a consequence of the lifestyles that people choose to lead.
Is it justifiable, then, using punitive pressures to force people into changing their lifestyles against their own will, for the sake of preventing them from dying of illnesses that most people wouldn't even have lived to develop if we were not already so obsessed with extending the average lifespan?
Perhaps of greatest importance, is the reality of what life is like for those persons who are "fortunate" enough to live well past the statistically average age of death.
The prevalence of dementia goes up exponentially with age. At age 65, roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population has dementia. At age 80, the numbers reach between 20 and 30 percent. Some studies have found that after age 85 about 50 percent of the population has dementia.
1 in 6 people over 65 develop incontinence problems. The number continues to rise with increasing age. In long-term care institutions the number of elderly people with bladder control problems is very high - about 1 in 2.
10.5 percent of elderly persons in the U.S. have annual incomes below the official government-defined poverty line. A further 6.5 percent of elders have incomes hovering just above the poverty line.
Older persons are disproportionately affected by sensory impairments. Although those 65 and over make up only 12.8 percent of the U.S. population, they account for roughly 37 percent of all hearing-impaired individuals and 30 percent of all visually-impaired individuals.
About 25% of persons over the age of 65 report feeling lonely "frequently" or "much of the time". The older you live, the greater the likelihood becomes that you will have outlived your spouse and/or your closest friends. Fewer than 20 percent of persons over the age of 65 live with their children, in almost every industrialized nation. A substantial percentage of long-term care nursing home residents have no outside contacts, ie; no one ever visits them.
The truth of the matter is this; social, technological and medical advances in industrialized nations have already pushed the "average age of death" so high that living beyond that age may be more of a curse than a blessing for many people - a situation that is likely to get worse, not better, as the average age of death continues to rise. A longer life is not necessarily a happier one!
We have already acheived the bizarre and ironic situation, where our public health practices and medical techniques have advanced to the point of preserving the lives of persons who will suffer unbearable pain and torment for many years, simply because we are capable of artificially extending their lives.
The insane situation of persons who have to go to court and beg to be allowed to die, or who have to resort to asking their spouse or other loved ones to kill them in order to put an end to their suffering.
Ultimately, what the specific average age of death might happen to be at any given point in time, amounts to a statistical accident. There is nothing magical about a specific length of human life that would make living beyond that point inherently and intrinsically 'good', and thus dying before that point inherently and intrinsically 'bad'. The specific circumstances of each individual's life are what determines whether or not they will welcome their own passing, at whatever age that might occur.
Those who advocate the use of coercive and punitive measures to force people into adopting "healthy lifestyles" are obsessed with the concept of "preventable death". The fanatical attacks on smoking and on eating habits are justified by claiming that smoking and "obesity" are the leading causes of preventable death. (A "preventable" death being one in which an individual or the community could have reasonably done something that would have changed the circumstances that lead to the death.)
The use of coercive and punitive measures to bully people into doing or not doing certain things, on the grounds that this may reduce the incidence of specific causes of preventable deaths, appears to have a substantial amount of popular support at this time - or at least, there hasn't been a significant popular opposition to this concept.
No doubt, this reflects the generalized apathetic acceptance of public policies - whatever those policies might be - that the western industrialized nations are famous for. It may also reflect a failure of most citizens to grasp the full implications of this approach to public health policy;
1. There will always be a "leading cause of preventable death".
2. If it is justifiable to use the various coercive and punitive powers of the state to prevent people dying from the current "leading cause of preventable death", it must be justifiable to use those powers to prevent people dying from any cause of preventable death.
Suppose that taxation and regulation of the tobacco industry, as well as taxation, regulation, "de-normalization" or even criminalization of the behavior of smokers, actually succeeded in reducing the number of deaths attributable to smoking to negligible levels. Something else would then become the leading cause of preventable death, and presumably be attacked with all the fanaticism that is currently being directed at smoking and other tobacco use.
In fact, this is already taking place. For a variety of reasons, smoking-related deaths are starting to decline and the next highest alleged cause of preventable death - obesity - is now coming under increased scrutiny and attack. Public health officials and advocacy groups have begun to call for the same kinds of coercive and punitive measures employed against tobacco and smoking, to be used against the "fast-food" and restaurant industries and their customers.
The stated goal of the anti-smoking industry is a smoking-free society. If the level of fanaticism involved in the "fight against tobacco" is justifiable, it must be justifiable in the coming "fight against fat". The amount of coercive and punitive measures and regulation that would be necessary to create a fat-free society is unknown at this time, but it would surely require an even greater intrusiveness into and regulation of people's personal choices, habits and behavior than those already used against tobacco have required. And if such tactics actually succeeded in bringing the rates of death attributable to obesity to negligible levels, what next?
Perhaps drinking alcoholic beverages might become the leading cause of preventable deaths. Would the public health advocates then demand that the full weight of the state be employed to bring about an alcohol-free society? Deja vu! Haven't we been down that road already, once before?
After alcohol, perhaps auto accidents might become the leading cause of preventable death. Could anything less than a total ban on personal vehicles come anywhere close to acheiving a society with no auto accidents?
Let us not forget deaths caused by sexually-transmitted diseases. HIV-AIDS is still responsible for large numbers of deaths in Western nations, and enormous numbers of deaths in Africa and other developing areas of the world, for example. Would we be looking at regulations governing when, where, with whom and in what manner we all have sexual relations?
Eventually, recreational sport injuries would become the remaining leading cause of preventable deaths. A ban on the sale of climbing gear? Massive taxes on hockey rink rentals? No film footage or other depictions of downhill skiing on prime-time television, of course - we can't have children being seduced by the nefarious sport equipment industry into needlessly endangering their lives by imitating this irresponsible behavior, which is now the leading cause of preventable deaths...
This scenario is not a paranoid fantasy! It is the logical eventual consequence and probable outcome of allowing public health officials and advocacy groups to get away with intrusive regulations and coercive and punitive measures by claiming that such tactics are justifiable in order to combat the leading cause of "preventable" deaths - whatever that cause of death might be or become.
The regulation of virtually every aspect of our personal lives, the continual and progressive erosion of our personal liberty and our freedom - this is the price we will all have to pay, if we are to accept and follow the prescription for minimal-risk living which public health fanatics are attempting to write for us.
It is worthwhile contemplating that the 295,000 American and 39,000 Canadian military deaths which occurred during World War Two all fit the definition of "preventable" deaths. Immediate capitulation to the Nazi regime would have prevented most, if not all, of those deaths.
What a tragic irony it would be, if nations where millions of citizens were willing to sacrifice their lives in the struggle to ensure liberty and freedom for all, ended up sacrificing that very liberty and freedom in cowardly and futile attempts to run away from the inevitablity of death, by forcing minimal-risk lifestyles on all of their citizens.
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