Being Mortal, But Moral?


Being Mortal, But Moral?

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This post is about death. If you feel its too morbid a topic to talk about and would rather not read anymore please feel free to stop right now. If not lets continue talking.

The average human life is replete with failures, setbacks and rejections. We put on a brave face, tell each other that its all passing clouds and we have to stay positive and get on with living our lives as best as we can. But there is one facet of our life which we cannot change despite all the best intentions, positive thoughts and Facebook memes shared between strangers and acquaintances and that’s the great leveler, death.  Now you may wonder why i am talking so freely about something we all avoid talking about, most of us even hesitate to think about and you are right- its only because people like me, who work in the healthcare field are on an ever present acquaintance with death, so much so that it makes a lot of us doctors talk matter of fact way about death to everyone we meet as if we are somehow immune to its effects. And we need that shield of immortality (mentally) to walk into sick rooms all day long, everyday of the year to stand beside people who are sick enough to die soon and treat them without giving thought about catching something from those patients and dying ourselves. If we think that way for even one minute, we wont be good doctors at all, we would just have to retire.

But death comes to doctors too- despite their denials in their own fallibility. And death comes to patients- despite their doctors and their best efforts too.  I have seen so many doctors who give that perfunctory – he/she will be alright soon in the hope that they will be alright and not because they know for a certainty that the patient will be alright. Its a humbling fact to agree to but its the truth. For all the advances we have in diagnostics we can still predict only the amount of damage and disease we discover at that point in a patients body and we cannot with any fair degree of certainty extrapolate the results from the test to predict the date of death. A man who get a 64-slice or 128-slice sonogram and pronounced to be as healthy as a mule heart-wise can still drop dead the next day because the heart muscle may refuse to cooperate with the doctors prediction or the liver refuses to produce clotting factors or the kidney has been abused too much and simply shuts down.  And even the postmortem might not be conclusive for it can only tell about how it happened- a thrombotic event or a coronary occlusion but not about why it happened when it did.

That “why death comes when it comes” is still a whole lot of mystery to everyone. Oh, we have theories to explain it. Modern medicine has all these researches about aging, cellular damage,apoptosis- programmed cell death which is the he simplest and most widely believed reason. It goes something like this – every cell in the body contains DNA, which acquires gene mutations over time. These mutations can sometimes occur in an instant or they can build up slowly over decades and when these mutation reach a certain tip over point- cell death occurs. If enough cells die- the organ dies. If some vital organ dies- the whole organism- the human body in this case dies.  Thats just the scientific explanation of how we die. But the why, still remains unanswered. Death is final, death happens to everyone, we are all on the road to death and we might drop dead tomorrow- you, me and everyone of us.  Accept that and it makes the rest of our life easier to live with.

And now i come to the moral part of this post. Knowing that we are all going to die soon, despite all our best laid plans and maneuverings and a thousand little things we do to ease our lives in the long run- what if we do not have that long run? What if we were to die tomorrow? Would we still lie, cheat, back-stab, betray and character assassinate if we know that we would no longer be around to reap the benefits  later on? Would we still make long term plans that involve short term evil actions justifying it to our conscience as necessary evil on our way to future success, if we realize we don’t have a future at all?  Or would try to live a more moral life remembering that what we do today is not going to change anything to our benefit? Will morality rise if we knew that our days were numbered or would we go the other way? I am curious to know what you think.  So do share your thoughts with me on this question.

P.S. This question about the morality of our actions applies only to the average normal person among us who wont mind cutting a few corners to get ahead in life, regretting the necessity of doing so all the time under their pricking conscience. For the other kind- the born evil kind of people, this question does not apply, for they would go to their graves doing evil to the last minute even if they never benefit from it.  Lately i have been meeting a lot of such evil people who gave me the germ to write this post. And i am curious to know others experiences about such ones.

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