The weekend before his death, our house was filled with people who worked up the courage to come say goodbye, he sat among them in the living room and took a few minutes in person with everyone as much as his state allowed. I sat on his bed as he was treated with euthanasia, which was one of the most intense experiences of my life. I still miss the man every day, but because of the process we had together, I have nothing but fond memories of the times he was still there, including the very hard periods of time that come with a disease like this.
This turned into a bit more text than I intended but my point is this: If you ever have a choice in the way you are to die, take heed of the points in this story. It may seem brutal at times to be as honest and open as you can about such an intimate process, but having gone through it once, I have absolutely no regrets. I wish Pieter and his loved ones all the best in the coming times.
We are going to die. Some of us are going to die on the street after decades of physical pain, alienation, emotional abandonment, mental illness, and alcoholism/drug abuse. Many of these have less true hope for a good life than a cancer patient like Pieter, but it would be insane if there were dozens of comments lamenting the lack of voluntary suicide services in homeless shelters (though maybe we're a bit sensitive about that sort of thing not working out too well the last time we tried it).
Humans have something that puts us above being put down like an animal. And we have to suffer for it - like we do for many of the other things that make us human.
* Doctors who wish to help their suffering patients can do so without fear of criminal prosecution.
* Terminal patients can control their own deaths without family demanding expensive, painful treatments that have little or no chance of success.
* Such patients are protected from punishments such as loss of insurance.
* Family and friends can be shielded from extended stress and trauma.
Given that cancer is a majority cause of death in the West, and tends to be incurable in most cases, and tends to lead to massive suffering, euthanasia is IMO one of the most fundamental human rights.
You are of course free to reject such a course based on your own beliefs. However to argue that suffering and pain are the cost of being human is... invalid.
Those are the goals, but to attain them you plan to ask someone to sedate you and then kill you by stopping your heart. The evil of suicide isn't that it's a violent or unexpected death, but that it is a planned death, the victim trading her life for benefits like reduced suffering (or in even sadder cases, life insurance payoffs, a ufo trip, honor for the emperor, whatever). The person's remaining life seems worthless, so they plan, make their decision, feel at peace and begin to put their affairs in order - I read this in a "suicide prevention" pamphlet. Please tell me what the difference is to you, since I no longer have the opportunity to ask someone in that position. I see the following answers:
* It is not suicide because I really am better off dead.
* It is not suicide because numerous doctors judge that I really am better off dead.
* It is not suicide because cancer is worse than depression and an injection is better than a rope.
* It is not suicide because my loved ones also feel at peace with my decision.
Can you tell me plainly how what you plan is different from suicide?
And sure, I agree that humans are rational animals, not suffering animals. But the world is not perfect, so there are still some times where we must endure even intense suffering to maintain our human dignity. You are fortunate enough to have access to sedation until natural death, why not take advantage of that instead?
However, when you express this opinion in an expressly negative way, it makes it sound like you are attempting to invalidate the opinions of people who might hold contrasting beliefs. And history has shown this to be one of the top 10 causes for conflict and wars.
Perhaps you might find a more positive way to express your personal beliefs? Perhaps you could say, "I wish we lived in a world without pain or terminal illness, so nobody would have to make the choice between pointless suffering and death".
If you find some way to contribute to the conversation without calling a man dying of cancer "revolting", you would have a better chance of finding common ground and reaching consensus.
There's no consensus arising from softening and "adjusting" each other's views. We're better off describing things clearly.
What is euthanasia, except killing yourself because you have no hope for your remaining life, like every other suicide? Is it justified because you had your family and your doctor agree with you?
>> In all jurisdictions, the request for euthanasia or pas has to be voluntary, well-considered, informed, and persistent over time. The requesting person must provide explicit written consent and must be competent at the time the request is made. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070710/
This is fairly comprehensive, which is reassuring. However, the article goes on to say:
>> Despite those safeguards, more than 500 people in the Netherlands are euthanized involuntarily every year. In 2005, a total of 2410 deaths by euthanasia or pas [physician assisted suicide] were reported, representing 1.7% of all deaths in the Netherlands. More than 560 people (0.4% of all deaths) were administered lethal substances without having given explicit consent. For every 5 people euthanized, 1 is euthanized without having given explicit consent.
Just because regulations are strict, does not mean that they are strictly followed, or enforced.
My hope is that in the majority of those cases the paperwork either just didn't get finished in time, or that the subject in some way did actually want this but started the process too late to be clearly of their own decision.
"When life was ended without the explicit request of the patient, there had been discussion about the act or a previous wish of the patient for the act in 60.0% of patients, as compared with 26.5% in 2001. In 2005, the ending of life was not discussed with patients because they were unconscious (10.4%) or incompetent owing to young age (14.4%) or because of other factors (15.3%). Of all cases of the ending of life in 2005 without an explicit request by the patient, 80.9% had been discussed with relatives. In 65.3% of cases, the physician had discussed the decision with one or more colleagues"
So, part of this is due to the fact that the law states that doctors must check that the patient consents _now_ with the choice. A written statement that, for example, one doesn't want to live on with Alzheimer's when one has reached a well-described state is not sufficient.
My hope is that where paperwork did go through, no person was uncertain or regretted their life-altering decision (which, for example, increases suicide risk in one's family twofold). But I doubt that either of our hopes lives up to reality.
Euthanasia increases suicide risks as opposed to dying painfully of natural causes?
What is the baseline here? Could you provide a source?
I am saddened to see you are so young.
> ... and enforce the barbaric torture of decay and failure. It's especially relevant for cancer, which is a primary cause of death
I'm glad you find yourself somewhere enlightened. As someone who watched his father die of cancer over 2.5-3 years in the UK it almost robbed me of my father for a while. The last six months were brutal. He was either away with the fairies on Morphine, or in his increasingly rare lucid moments, pleading with NHS to reduce his dose. He chose pain and lucidity over a zombie state yet was often denied that choice as the system sought to reduce pain above all. He made it plain when he could, many times during the end months, that he didn't want to play this game any more.
Post death, our memories were of the brutality, of the incoherent husk on drugs who had had enough long since, of the ever increasing dosages and tripping in the system's wish to reduce pain, of the morphine smell. Of being increasingly worn down by it. It was harder in those early weeks after death to remember the real man, so defined by his mind, intelligence, humour and practical jokes. I still miss my best friend.
The UK is no nearer enlightenment on this topic today than 20 years ago when my father died. The views of those claiming a hotline to god, in our increasingly atheistic country, were exceptionally hard to hear, yet always sought in any media discussion of euthanasia.
I am thankful your children and other family will have the blessing of kinder memories.
This is something that hits very close to home, as I'm in the same path as Pieter and your father and I see that path getting me to the same end. If that happens, I'd like to end on my terms, not as the husk that you describe and not after having my family go through all the pain that you describe.
It's intended to make it so that the relatives of someone who travelled abroad for assisted dying are less likely to be prosecuted under the Suicide Act 1961.
Pretty much all attempts at legal change (whether through legislation or through court action) in the UK have been a failure. It pops up every few years in Parliament and is then roundly voted down.
The Terry Pratchett documentary was challenging to watch, but very well made. At least it gave rise to a somewhat more rational discussion of the topic than they often are. It's sure to be out there on a torrent or YT for anyone who's not seen it.
Thank you for your words
I spent my civil service as an EMT and only once I saw a doctor giving the daughter of a terminally ill woman a piece of advice I will never forget (this woman was in such bad conditions, she simply wasn't there anymore and spent 100% of her time with morphin-induced allucinations): after giving her the morphin prescription he told her that "nobody is going to go behind you if you give her an overdose" - implying that she could end her suffering but she had to be the one killing her.
It was by far one of the hardest moment of my life, and I was just a passive witness. It was just brutal.
The alternative is for patients to refuse food and water until they die.
I'd been thinking about this a lot because my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness 3+ years ago. We'd discussed euthanasia, and he definitely didn't want to spend his final 6-12 months suffering.
Because he didn't die, the docs took another look and realised he'd been misdiagnosed (and yes, we got 2nd & 3rd opinions after the initial diagnosis).
Oregon was the first place in the world to legalize euthanasia.
I'm very sorry for your loss.
Take care /u/PieterH.
Plenty links so you can all learn from and enjoy his work. :)
Thanks for mentioning this. (The article was by itself also interesting though.)
> My first free software is from 1991. I realized the power of community gradually from 2005 when fighting software patents in Europe. I refined and tested the techniques in the ffii for projects like digistan. I saw the failure of money and power in amqp. In zeromq it took years to find the right patterns. I documented much in culture and empire.
This earned my respect beyond words:
> "There's this experimental cure people are talking about." This gets the ban hammer from me, and happily I only got a few of those. Even if there was a miracle cure, the cost and stress (to others) of seeking it is such a selfish and disproportionate act. With, as we know, lottery-style chances of success. We live, we die.
And this is just awesome: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11521249
"I'm sorry to hear this, Pieter. I don't have a question, but would just like to wish you well"
> Excellent question! (can you tell I'm bored in a hospital)?
Well, it all started when I was about three, and I discovered ants. Fire ants, to be specific. Biting me all over cause I'd chosen to hide right on top of their nest. There's a lesson there.
Thanks, Pieter. For everything!
If you'd like to thank Pieter more directly, he's accepting Paypal donations at email@example.com.
> Well this is really kind. Yes, I'm pretty broke and have three young children who will be semi orphans. Cue violins.
Happy to receive on PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will give my family the keys to that so they can put it aside for ma wee bairns... Thanks for suggesting this.
Thank you Pieter, and godspeed on your big journey, whereever it will take you.
But it has huge implications for us in the very soon battle for understanding if turing-complete high-level-abstracting machines would experience "consciousness" like we do. In terms of medical care, rights, and other aspects for thinking entities.
And Pieter, if you are reading this, I wish you well in whatever lies ahead for your mind, and for your actions which will surely echo through the sands of time for people. Because like you said, even if life is indeed finite -- that we take a sensible approach, our legacy should be able to give us comfort that our actions do get magnified by time -- so do what you love, and it will speak through future generations.
I couldn't agree more about euthanasia, I've always envisioned a Dia de los Muertos style party for when I go :). I would much rather go when people have a chance to see me happy and reminiscing like you mention. I would say thank you for your work, but I know there's much more to you than that!
What a legend.
Thanks for posting and thanks to Pieter for writing.
i) "One tactic I used was to take the cult techniques and reverse them"
ii) "We create culture by sharing" (extends to a successful project being a culture, a share-alike licence, and a name/domain which of course can be forked)
There are many others - his writing introduced me to Conway's law (was b) - "A software system mimics the structure of the organization that produces it ") - I've only read part of his work, time well spent and good to discuss with programmers and non-programmers - he made me think
If I ever have to die of some horrible disease I want to go on my terms and do exactly like op.
Knowing how to die is as important as knowing how to live, perhaps more. As he leaves us, he is giving us all an important lesson.
His series of articles on psychopaths and the havoc they wreak is well worth reading, even if it takes a while to take it all in.
My best lesson I learned on programming from Pieter was to use code generators effectively. The advantages cannot be overstated.
Thank you Pieter, you will be missed.
Likely among other places, Pieter discusses code generators here: http://download.imatix.com/mop/introduction.html
> Thank you Pieter, you will be missed.
Agreed. I posted my thoughts on his blog, although the hundreds of comments on this page will also stand as a testament to Pieter's work and the lives that he touched.
Only thing I missed in your post is a snappy remark to alternative medicine (not expiremental, mind you); would have made it perfect. That stuff usually conflicts with the actual treatment and even if it doesn't and people survive they say it is because of the alternative junk instead of the actual treatment they conveniently forget to mention they took as well. You know, these sites that claim it's true and proven linking to multiple studies showing it...performed by themselves and published on their own website only.
I wish you the most with the time you have left but have no doubt you will make it count.
Well, one thing left.
This is Bob.
Bob is dying.
Bob doesn't whine or bitch about life being unfair.
Bob is one tough motherf*er.
Be like Bob.
P.s. If you think the stick figure sucks you should see my real drawings.
Death is coming to all of us. We all die. Death of some, however, will be a big loss. You, sir, are among them.
As the younger nephew, I didn't feel as much responsibility to be involved with the logistics (it felt more awkward to me but I think it was comforting to the children, spouses etc). So instead of joining in on the doctor/prognosis conversations and later the funeral arrangement/what to do with the house stuff, I just sat and talked to my uncles instead.
I had known both of them my entire life but I realized I knew almost nothing about them. All our interactions were just uncle to nephew, family occasions kind of stuff, but by this time I was an adult (just barely), and all the sudden we were just two people talking and I learned more about them in a 20 minute session than the prior 20+ years. Some other family who were on the periphery of the conversation confided later that they regretted not having those moments while they had the chance. I didn't even talk that much, just enough to make it a two way conversation, but I found my uncles both were very at peace but wanted to reminisce and tell stories they probably hadn't told anyone in decades. One uncle told me about joining the military during Korea and having gone through all the training and finally being sent all the way there to have the war end practically the day he got there and he ended up being sent right back and what a strange conflicted experience it was for him.
I've started visiting with my other elderly family a lot more since then and have had some similar conversations that didn't require anyone being terminally ill, but somehow that seems to make those conversations a little easier.
I can definitely agree with the piece, especially about what to say and what not to. I'm not expert by any means, I just did the only thing that felt natural whatsoever: just talk to them like a person and let what happens happen. Granted I had the benefit of the fact that they were well taken care of by their children and others, otherwise it would have been much more difficult.
May your wisdom and compassion live on in your children and in all the other people you have influenced.
A great write-up on his theory of model-driven development and the tech that underpinned most of iMatix:
Their website is a slide-show demonstrating their amazing work:
Generating servers from state machines and such:
SMT kernel for portable, multi-threaded, fast code:
Web server (old and new) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xitami http://xitami.wikidot.com/main:start
One of best middleware ever http://zeromq.org/
As for the euthanasia, my wife's aunt died of cervical cancer and it was very rough, not only on her, but on her entire family. It's not an exaggeration to say that they likely all have PTSD from the experience. I'm not a proponent of euthanasia but I can see the appeal. It probably depends a lot on the individual situation.
I'm not sure how long you'll keep on reading stuff, but rest assured me and many others will cherish the very fond memories of collaborating with you - you've always had a sharp wit and a practical sort of unconventionalism that gets things done. We have much to thank you for.
We worked together on Digistan and the "The Hague Declaration", which I helped host in The Hague - and I think it still is a strong statement that is worth repeating. People can sign that declaration:
I'm very much saddened to hear about your disease - and deep respect for the way you handle this unannounced change of plan. I hope your remaining time will be spent with those you love looking back on a rich life where you've left the world better than it is - and got the max out of it. I'll send you an email, so that when your kids are older and want to know about the things you've done they can contact me. Take care, my friend.
Reading what Pieter just wrote makes realize that I lack fortitude in one aspect: compassion. Pieter's words confirms to me that one needs to wield formidable muscles in the compassion department for one to be at peace and be ready to die.
Great man, Pieter.
Thank you for everything you've done as a blog writer and as a member of the open source community.
Thank you Pieter, you're truly a giver till the last drop, and a model to follow!
I think this is a great request: "Find a moment in your own jurisdiction, if it bans euthanasia, to lobby for the right to die in dignity."
Goodbye Pieter, go happy knowing that you've put in your kids much more than DNA, they're set for an awesome journey!
Then again, as you demonstrate, we need not focus on the things we cannot change. Spending time with regrets is time wasted. Thank you!
Having flown halfway across the USA, I was fortunate to be there for his last two hours, unlike one brother, who arrived a day late. I wish I had come with happy memories to share, but the suddenness and shock of seeing him holding on by a slender thread obliterated such thoughts. I took over for the at-home hospice nurses and ministered care according to his heart and respiratory rates.
My mother had prayed in the next room, "Lord, take this good man," and it was obvious that his end was imminent.
Oddly, my experience felt similar to seeing the Twin Towers burn from a mile across the Hudson River. My eyes were riveted to the inferno until I turned to look away, then magically believed that when I returned my gaze everything would be right and intact.
Dad's eyes never opened, but his expression brightened when I said, "Dad, it's Dave." After hearing my mom's prayer, I busied myself with his nursing care, but was stymied about what to say. I had already told him the most important things on the phone after hearing the news from him that he was dying without regrets. He was lucid and conversant then. Now, he was teetering between states of coma and listening heart.
When my mother stepped into the hallway outside their condo, I counted his respirations – 32 per minute – and gave him a dropper of lorazepam, as directed. I said to him: "I can't ask you to stick around." I wanted him to know it was okay to let go but had no other words to say it. Facially, he shrugged. Thus did he begin his final retreat. I called my oldest brother and his son into the room and we called his name as he drew his last breaths. When Mom returned it was all over.
I still wonder, if I had come with loving memories to share, would he have held on through the night and into the next morning, long enough for his middle son to say goodbye?
It could be my life's project to write about my father, but my life has too much urgency to reflect so long on the past. Maybe things will settle enough for that in the future, but not now.
I am grateful for your valuable experience and will explore your writings. You are helping your family and others with everything you've done. I believe you are having a marvelous adventure.
We should care about these deadly diseases, or DNA mutation, what causing it. Any bug happens, we can resolve it, but losing a person we can't recover.
I am the one of person who also suffering from autoimmune disease.
Sorry for my English.
This approach is also fully compatible with the idea that life itself is a "terminal disease".
I think Peter's protocol is exactly how this needs to be handled.
Apparently the cost finally dropped below $1kUSD this year
I think, and hope my kids will slowly forget about me except as deep and positive experiences, and it would be narcissistic in the extreme to ask them to carry my DNA around like ashes, just in case.
None of us are that special, me certainly not. Life is for the living, not the dead.
I hope you don't mind this sir, but I am going to email you why, since I don't want a long explanation of my medical data on hn alongside feelings about my family.
I still think it is something you should hear before you pass
Yes, I'd do this if I could find a researcher willing to help, and if I thought my disease had a genetic basis. As it is, I've put it down to "dumb bad luck" and there's no sequencing that.
I'll explain: my family has no history of cancer. We tend to die from natural causes, not too late, not too early. I'm unusual. The cancer originally in my bile duct is also extremely rare in Europe and America. Yet it turns out to be a main (if not the main) cause of death among 50+ males in certain east Asian countries.
So it's (almost certainly) a liver fluke carried in raw farmed fish, which is slipping into the global trade as "sea fish" and being used in cheap sushi restaurants. The fluke attaches to the bile duct and produces carcinogens because it likes feeding off the tumors.
The bad news is there are going to be a lot of western men in their 50s who get dramatically bad news out of nowhere, as this parasite must now be lodged in tends of thousands of us. Good news is this killer will finally benefit from some real attention, to the benefit of all.
Interestingly, women are almost entirely unaffected.
So while sequencing my DNA wouldn't help much in my case, there is one message I'd like to send to the world: "Stop eating fish. Fish is shit." One should not be eating wild proteins anyhow. It's unethical IMO.
(I had to make the joke,sorry)
I want to agree with you about "dumb bad luck." Unfortunately, your description of why turns the science question gears in my head if there is an epigenetic or genetic or a mixture of both (especially since this appears to be X linked? testoterone level linked? something along those lines?) What about maleness matters that leaves women nearly unaffected? Are there certain men more likely to be affected given that sushi has been around for like 30 years in the west, in some places longer, and the rates haven't risen dramatically yet.
And while on the surface it sounds like you have an awesome family tree, many people's families underdiscuss their family health in their family trees (mine is unusual in that we don't). In some cases old documents are misunderstood in terms of cause of death (eg: consumption used to be a thing) I don't know your family dynamics well, especially 5 generations back. Having an actual copy of your DNA in a database (and having a copy of your medical records in a super ideal world in safety deposit box for when they are older for essentially the same reason), basically ensures against questions later.
besides, you also have no idea what good genes/epigenetics that you never got to take advantage of that got passed down. Same probability principles hold, and as overall sequencing costs go down for the general population, there will be research in that area as well, and they might be interested in that as well
And you should really tweet about the fish - I actually didn't know about the parasite :/
- https://github.com/zeromq/zyre (with ports for many languages, such as Go: https://github.com/zeromq/gyre)
In my opinion, this is a great loss to the world of programming.
Euthanasia is bad from a practical standpoint, and an evil, because:
1. Objectively speaking, euthanasia is suicide, and the killing of an innocent person. If Schwartz killing himself (out of despair for his future, fear of suffering in prison, or otherwise) was a tragedy, why is Pieter's upcoming suicide not a tragedy? Is it because his certain death is closer? (This view promotes the idea that a "disabled" life, where one is "unhappy", or must be cared for at great expense, or is suffering, or (extrapolating) is cryogenically frozen, is not valuable in and of itself; but it is.)
2. Suicide increases the risk that friends and family will commit suicide. A search will yield numerous studies: "2.1-fold increased risk of committing suicide", etc. If you kill yourself, you are indirectly killing the people closest to you.
3. If you are against the death penalty because we might execute an innocent person, you should be against Euthanasia because we might kill a non-consenting person. This is already the case:
> "these laws and safeguards are regularly ignored and transgressed in all the jurisdictions ... about 900 people annually are administered lethal substances without having given explicit consent, and in one jurisdiction, almost 50% of cases of euthanasia are not reported ... some jurisdictions now extend the practice to newborns, children, and people with dementia. A terminal illness is no longer a prerequisite." 
Please, when you hear someone speak in flowery language about the dignity of choosing death, take a moment to evaluate what they are actually suggesting, and to research why people are opposed. Many seem to think that the only people against euthanasia are the religious whose reasoning is roughly "well, my religion randomly chose to mark this as evil, therefore it is", which is just not the case.
(...finally, this is likely a very poor protocol for dealing with death - people deal in different ways, and not all people will look back fondly on having to smile all the time, or on expressing "false" hope and being told that, actually, objectively speaking, they should not have hope. Also, a totally minor point, but we are not like Lego houses - we do not need to be utterly destroyed for others to live.)
1. Yeah it's suicide. When you live in constant pain, lie in bed, get meds that make you hallunicate and have no realistic hope for improvement that seems like a reasonable option.
2. Suicide usually has some form of emotional component in it that is shared in the environment. That's why we call it euthanasia, it's not really comparable other then the very general "choose to end own life"
3. Sure mistakes will be made. One such controversy in the Netherlands was euthanasia on baby's with an open back (not sure about the translation). If they had a lot of pain or not. In general there are some pretty rigorous procedures in place to ensure we learn from mistakes, and making sure it are honest mistakes.
So point of this reply, it's a two way street. If you have seen the suffering in the end stages of life euthanasia is not a bad thing. Are there drawbacks sure, we're talking about ending a life, no matter what you do there's a stigma involved and because actual human beings are involved it will not always go the way it should.
At the end of the day, the ideal of someone being able to tell the world enough is enough and empowering them to execute that decision, on certain criteria, is a better world then letting someone die in their own feces hallucinating that worms are digging into their feet due to meds and not being able to move due to advanced parkinson. And yes that's the way my dad was in the end before the docter decided to cooperate with his euthanasia.
Sorry about your dad.
>"suicide is better than living like that" - well... yeah, but isn't that always the motive, what's the difference now?
The difference is that the person and their medical personnel are in agreement that realistically: there is not a reasonable hope that their medical condition(s) may be cured or alleviated, so the overwhelming likelihood is that they are going to die from their medical condition(s), and their experience leading up to their death is going to be agonizing and severely depriving of dignity.
With suicide, a person is choosing to take their own life even though they don't have a medical consensus with a reasonable expectation that they are going to die of any condition (besides old age--which I don't believe is commonly a major factor in suicides and would probably not be acceptable).
> well... yeah, but isn't that always the motive, what's the difference now?
See the reply of djokkataja, it covers it pretty well.
> And for (2) "sometimes, mistakes are made and people die who shouldn't have" - is that what you also think when it comes to, say, the death penalty?
There is a world of difference. Now let me say that we in the Netherlands have no death penalty, but let's take the model in America vs the process of euthanasie in the netherlands.
Deathpenalty -> Subject is not willing, evaluation is done by non trained experts (jury) on issues of law (ie guilty)
Euthanasie -> Subject is willing, evaluation is done by trained experts (at least 2 GP's) on medical issues.
In the deathpenalty scenario the worst you can do is kill someone innocent. In the euthanasie scenario the worst you can do is kill someone with a huge medical condition that for all appearances it seems to be terminal with an unbearable standard of living (ie pain).
Comparing the two is cheap rhetoric as far as I'm concerned.
1. This is a tragedy of a death of a human being and the loss for a family of a beloved one - all caused by a disease, not by a "suicide".
2. Those statistics are for overall suicides, not medical assisted ones. Even if they were for medical assisted "suicides" you would need to control for other factors.
3. Medical-assisted "suicide" is voluntary, not imposed by a third party. Its people like you, with your extremist ideas, that are imposing something by denying others the right to choose.
4. This is really not the time nor the place to discuss these ideas. Have some respect please.
It isn't extremist to say that it's always wrong to kill an innocent person even if that person asks to be killed. When I was a kid watching silly movies, I knew that you could shoot a dying dog, but that it wasn't right to shoot a dying man. This was because humans had a certain dignity that put them above animals, even if they had to suffer for it.
I am stealing this.
Our bodies undergo wear-and-tear, like the mailbox we had to fix last week. Only, in the case of our bodies, we don't yet have a way to fix or replace most of our parts. After a while, too many parts get worn down until they are no longer able to continue, and everything about us - the parts that allow us to think, the parts that allow us to feel - just stops.
Sadly, fixing our biology is harder than fixing mailboxes, and while we're learning more and more about how to do it every decade, we won't be able to fix everything for the foreseeable future.
So why aren't we trying harder to fix it? You see, son, society has been dealing with death for many thousands of years, and people have developed coping mechanisms to deal with its apparent inevitability. The majority of people simply don't think about it. Public figures have even rationalized death as a good thing, and boy have they said the darndest things. For example, I've recently read of someone comparing our bodies to legos in a fixed sandbox - as if people literally need to be disassembled before others can be born - and no one bats an eye! Another person pointed out that scientific progress would be slowed down without the older generation of scientists dying - sure, billions of non-scientists may die every few decades, but hey, science is a bit faster as a result!
The point is, society has created a culture of either ignoring or accepting death, and it shapes the very way we think. Sure, that culture might have been harmless back when we really had no chance of combating problems like old age, but now? The vast majority of researchers, of funders, don't even bother to think about what should be some of the most important problems of our generation. Until we have progressed to the point where it becomes blatantly obvious that the technology to combat old age exists, it is unlikely anyone will even notice it. In other words, we're all screwed and you were born a few hundred years too early.
> we're all screwed and you were born a few hundred years too early.
It's not a great option, but cryonics seems way better than nothing. (Under the assumptions that the preservation is reasonably high-quality, the storage facilities stay operational, humanity doesn't destroy itself, and advanced medical technology gets developed; see waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html )
An example of someone who wanted to live a long time but was genuinely screwed and was born a couple hundred years too early:
The rapid Progress true Science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the Height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the Power of Man over Matter. We may perhaps learn to deprive large Masses of their Gravity, and give them absolute Levity, for the sake of easy Transport. Agriculture may diminish its Labor and double its Produce; all Diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, not excepting even that of Old Age, and our Lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian Standard. O that moral Science were in as fair a way of Improvement, that Men would cease to be Wolves to one another, and that human Beings would at length learn what they now improperly call Humanity!
So keep answering until you can't, and then say "I don't know". Curiosity is something to be fostered, not shutdown with lies.
When they're a little older and have more capacity to understand a fuller, more accurate, discussion is possible.
Only thing I can come up with is to wish everybody health and a long life.
The aspect of it that people are objecting to is that it does try to explain why. It says "Your father needs to go back in the box so we can make other people", which simply isn't true.
That said, I'm not a parent, and I realise it's easier to be idealistic in theory.
The lego analogy expresses the fact that we are not different from these other beings, and that we too must die so that life can continue. The death of an individual in this chain is always painful, but as part of the whole, it is just as it should be.
It's either that, or your child's future partner will have to deal with them losing faith in their parents, after so many things they were told turned out to be bullshit said to shut them up.
The analogy is not perfect. To create new Lego creations you have to destroy the old ones first. But analogies are never perfect. They're just a starting point to get a rough understanding.
As Peter says, "[my children] will grow up with me in their DNA, on Youtube as endless conference talks, and in writing."
I think there are interesting ideas around seeing individuals as part of a greater whole. Not even in a spiritual sense, but just in a plain biological sense. It's rare to consider things that way, but it makes me feel better about my place in the world.
A statement that I agree with, but which is of course meaningless to those who are filled with a total dread of death... Unfortunately this is one of those things that can't really be communicated. "You have to figure it out for yourself", etc...
I'm not sure I've successfully communicated my feeling about this. It's less like a total dread of death and more like a total dread of losing life, if that makes any sense.
Do you have any close loved ones---a younger brother, a daughter, a close friend? Anyone for whom you might consider sacrificing yourself; anyone who you believe to be a shining light unto the world. Say that person is eaten by cancer. Once they are dead, they feel no pain; this is clear to me, and is not central in my judgement.
What is central is the lost blossoming of a mind. A rich internal experience, a reflective world with joy, dreams, and curiosity, is not a thing that should be destroyed. A mind that wishes to continue seeing the world and its people, and other minds wishing that mind to continue shining its light, annihilated---don't look away from the pain! If you look away from the pain, you lose your already slim opportunity to fight back.
The human body has many enviable traits over a machine: self repair, remarkable efficiency, etc etc.
But there's one really awesome aspect of machines we should get to work on: a machine, if broken, will sit indefinitely until repaired.
Imagine! You are rent limb from limb in a horrific accident, your body ... stops. A good Samaritan happens upon it later, stitches it back together, puts in some fresh blood, gives it a bit of a kick-start, and away you go!
Screw cryonics: I want to keep indefinitely at room temperature, with no special (post-mortem) treatment.
I don't buy the "population slots". 100 years ago, the "population slots" were limited to at most 2 billion, back before Harber-Bosch. There's a lot of space to use - we can live under the sea, we'll finally have an economic reason for that Mars colony. And we can stop making children so much too. Those things are actually easier than beating death, so - with added incentive to actually making them happen - you can expect them coming before people actually get immortal.
 - http://www.amazon.com/LEGO-X-Large-Gray-Baseplate-628/dp/B00...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process
A lot of the stubborness comes from facing death. When you think in terms of forever, it helps you to think a lot bigger than petty personal politics.
Or, at least, it should.
(1) people say things to children because it is more pleasant or convenient, not because it is true, and
(2) these misleading statements have negative effects later.
In this case, it seems potentially worthwhile to keep in view that death is actually not a good thing, and that it would better if there weren't death, and that we want to keep an eye out for opportunities to prevent death. "You do not make peace with darkness!"
> (2) these misleading statements have negative effects later.
Yes. And I had to fix that damage in people too. You know, sharing an interesting tidbit of information with a person close to me only for her to suddenly realize it was another thing her father mislead her about. Lying to children is like placing relationship landmines - your kids will step on them many years later and it will damage your relationship with them.
There might be more clever options, like cryopreserve everyone who dies; this does not consume many resources (the only recurring cost is liquid nitrogen, which is pretty cheap). Then we can wait to revive everyone until we have the medicine and the resources to support everyone, avoiding overpopulation.
Besides that, it is immaterial. We are all going to die someday and there is nothing we can do about it. The people seeing cryogenics are largely snake-oil salesmen. I don't believe anybody will ever find immortality (at least not in this life).
Do you think this problem is merely very difficult, or literally impossible to solve (e.g. because of some physical law)? I think that if a bunch of really smart humans tried really hard to solve this problem, and you predicted very very confidently that they would fail, then I would be pretty skeptical of your confidence. Just as an example, you suggest getting some more Earths. Sounds like one solid approach; expand humanity to other planets!
>We are all going to die someday and there is nothing we can do about it. [...] I don't believe anybody will ever find immortality (at least not in this life).
This might literally true, in the sense that we probably can't survive the heat death of the universe in however many bazillions of years. But do you think it is implausible that advanced medical technology could e.g. keep us alive, healthy, and sane for, say, thousands of years? This sounds both plausible and quite desirable to me, and I'm confused by your statements---for instance, I can't tell whether you are making a factual claim or an aesthetic claim.
>The people seeing cryogenics are largely snake-oil salesmen.
Eh? They seem pretty sincere; the people who run these organizations (Cryonics Institute, Alcor) are generally themselves signed up for cryonics, and speak passionately about life extension as a desirable goal. Cryonics is not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme.
Why? Do you think this would withstand a thousand years of human ingenuity? I'm confused where you're getting this very confident prediction.
It also still seems to me that long lifespans are extremely desirable, albeit difficult to obtain, and I'm not sure whether you agree. This is relevant because if we want to decide e.g. where to put research effort, it's useful to know what we want.
The article you linked is kind of long, and looks like it mainly consists of sneering at various people; could you point to the part that's relevant? All I saw was some stuff about Alcor messing up a preservation, which is pretty unfortunate, but not really strong evidence that they have bad motivations.
Also note that your current (probably?) western lifestyle puts several times more load on the environment than mine 3rd world-like one. It is the wasteful lifestyle choices made by living people that are really a problem, not the quantity of people in itself.
(Clarification: I think we'd obviously be better off if no one involuntarily died.)
I don't think I've been hasty in my thinking. What is the most central concern that you have about life as a good thing?
There are deep unsolved problems around long life. E.g., how do you grow as a mind that has existed for 4,000 years? A normal human mind would probably not be able to handle this, so we'd need some way to expand without losing the parts of ourselves that we value. Similarly, I don't know how to grow as a community of huge, ancient minds.
But, as the saying goes, those are very difficult problems, and I intend to work on solving them for as many centuries as it takes! Of course I can't literally claim to possess an absolute truth, but I think there is a very strong argument---or rather, I think most people would simply agree if they thought longer and more sanely about the question---that life can be awesome given some work, and it is precious, and we don't want to just give up on our vast adventure because, like, medicine is hard to figure out, or cryonics seems like something weird people do, or whatever.
I don't know if hasty was the right word; I don't mean to just dismiss what you're saying. Clearly you've considered this at length.
I cannot easily accept that perpetual life is a good thing and death is something which should be avoided (obviously, in a grander sense). I don't have a concern about life as a good thing in the same way I don't have a concern about death being a bad thing. Life and death are complementary. I can't fathom anything else.
Hm, I hear people say this a lot, but I genuinely can't empathize with where they are coming from. This is a blank spot in my map. Could you say more about the intuition behind this statement, and why this makes death seems desirable or less bad?
To illustrate how I emotionally parse the statement "Life and death are complementary", I want to make a possibly distressing analogy, so apologies in advance, and:
TRIGGER WARNING: abstract discussion of rape
That statement reads to me like:
"Being raped and not being raped are complementary. Members of higher animal species rape each other in the natural course of life, and humans have committed rape throughout history. Rape is a part of nature, so it is foolish to think that we humans could or should eliminate rape forever."
This is an obviously abhorrent position, and I genuinely don't see much of a difference talking about death instead. Clearly horrible thing is clearly horrible.
Again, I am absolutely not trying to imply you are evil, or thinking inside my head that you are evil, or anything remotely like that; I am just trying to convey how I kneejerk-emotionally react to your statement about life and death, in case it helps you say things to me that will cause me to understand where you are coming from.
Your inability to parse why I see life and death existing in a sort of balance is similar to my inability to have the same clarity that you do that death is inherently bad and should be eliminated. It's certainly something I'm going to think about.
So it seems quite worth it to fight death. I don't know if avoiding involuntary death should seem so implausible---humans are machines that can be fixed when they start breaking; that's how ordinary medicine works! I think it would actually be surprising if we could extend lifespans from 30 years all the way up to 100+ years, but couldn't possibly go much further, even given massive future advances in our understanding of biology, neurology, and technology.
Some might say the next logical step isn't to wish to live forever, but to die, and hope your genes and ideas live on. We're not the eternal ones in this universe, no matter how big our capacity to wish for that.
I only mean that we're machines enough so that medical techniques work. We are made of parts that break and can be fixed. This is on extremely solid empirical footing.
>Some might say the next logical step isn't to wish to live forever, but to die, and hope your genes and ideas live on. We're not the eternal ones in this universe, no matter how big our capacity to wish for that.
Do you say that? I wish to live a very long time, and I wish the same for my loved ones and anyone who wants. I would keep wishing this even if it were an impossible wish. Also, it happens to probably not be impossible.
That it is currently inevitable does not mean it doesn't suck, or that we shouldn't try to change that.
Life and death are part of the same simultaneous process. For a living thing to grow, it must die at the same time. Death is life's change agent.
"Controlled death of cells is as much a part of embryonal development as is cell proliferation and differentiation."
In my estimation, the "whole human mind" or "soul" of a person is not annihilated when someone dies. Our minds are an amorphous network constantly in intercourse with and dependent upon eachother.
When a loved one dies, all of the love they gave and words they said exist in some form or another within us, within our hearts and minds which we then pass on to others in turn.
Picture a field full of one type of flowers. If that one type of flowers grows old but never dies, soon enough there is no room for newer or better flowers to grow and evolve.
So as old minds pass away, new minds are born which draw upon the old minds' knowledge but also build upon that knowledge with newer and better ideas.
Alan Watts - Acceptance of Death
Some small parts of a person can be transmitted to the outside world, but this leaves out the vast, rich internal world each mind carries with it. If I picture a loved one dying, I feel pretty concerned with the part where they don't keep being alive, keep pursuing their goals and having rich experiences and exploring and loving and being loved and creating and etc. How does this compare with your thoughts?
This may be painful to think about in detail. But I think it is actually important to think about anyway, because there are actual important decisions we have to make (whether to do research in to life extension, whether to sign up for cryonics, etc.), and we seem to be making the wrong decisions when we don't have everything in view; including the most painful parts, which happen to be the most important!
I'm also pretty confused why people bring up supposed benefits of society; to be frank, it sounds to me like people are suggesting "we should kill (let die) all the old and sick people to free up floor space" or "we should kill (let die) all the old and sick people so we don't have to spend any time dealing with their backwards ideas".
Yes, but all of that would still exist if they didn't die, so it's irrelevant.
>Acceptance of Death
There's a difference between coming to terms with the likelihood of ones death, and thinking it's a good thing.
Death is a horrible thing that we should seek to prevent if at all possible.
I think it's an incredibly pessimistic view of humanity to suggest social change can only come about through death.
Moreover, I think this argument tends to come solely from people trying to excuse death, rather than any kind of reasonable analysis.
Yes, this is a pessimistic viewpoint, but I think it's also a realistic one.
My point is that death sucks, and when I say that, I'm talking about children crying because they can't see granny any more. Talking about cell death is a distraction.
And if food consumption truly became limiting, would you prefer a society that kills people at a certain age, or one that limits the birth rate?
Neither. I'd prefer one smart enough to understand the demographic economic paradox and successfully raise the standard of living so that the problem of overpopulation solves itself naturally.
I'm asking what you do if population growth starts to outpace food production despite your best efforts? Do you start killing old people, or do you stop letting people have babies?
You shouldn't. I have seen this ideology come up on HN a lot (strangely almost never anywhere else), as an argument against human life extension. If this is your ideology, it's of course not productive to argue against it, but if your mind isn't made up yet, allow me to very briefly present some bullet point-like counter arguments:
Returning a couple of kilograms of mostly-carbon to the environmental cycle isn't critically important to nature. In the grand scheme of things, never breaking the old legos is probably not a net loss in a universe filled to the brim with more lego bricks. It's hard to make a compelling argument that our mental or cultural landscape would improve if this specific person was removed. Individual minds do have an intrinsic value that is lost when death happens, with little-to-no balancing benefit on the other side.
If your primary motivation for a "death is good" paradigm comes from the perception that it's the only antidote to overpopulation, there is even more to talk about than would be prudent in this thread, but suffice it to say that over-procreation is due to a faulty feedback loop, and not an inevitable fact of human existence.
Of course, you may - and probably do - disagree with this opinion, but it's at least something to consider.
In my experience, children want to know very specific things about death, and I think we can answer them more truthfully and let them make up their own minds about the other things as they grow older. They usually want to know two things: why we die and what death will feel like for a person, which are totally reasonable questions.
The why can be answered by explaining that all things break, and when living beings break, they are no longer alive.
When my nephew recently asked what it's like being dead, I said to him for the people who died it's exactly like the time before they were born. That seemed to satisfy his concerns, and I hope this way of thinking will spare him the literal nightmares I had about death when I was 4, where people had told me I would spend eternity somewhere without a body.
I don't know this man, but I love him. I will remember this to my own demise.
I will look for a political group that is for a humane way of dying, and ask what needs to be done.
My father died in extreme pain. For three days he was in hell. His last words he spoke to me, "when will it end?". I didn't have an answer. My father's death kinda ruined my life. Even though we had our differences; every day since that day in January, 11 years ago, I think about how he suffered, and part of me died with him.
I think euthanasia rights are worth fighting for. People will argue that it's a "death panel". Show them my article.
It's so pathetic that we as a society waste so much time and energy on non-essential stuff instead of curing major killers. Yes, cancer is a hard one to beat (each cancer being different, too), but we've done even more complex things as humanity. I really don't think curing major diseases has ever been a top priority of our society! I hope one day soon people finally realize that diseases are not what other people get (the arrogance of the healthy), but what we all will eventually!
Rigidly adhering to dogma is something that many people take pride in. When done consciously, it's not blind obedience; it's a sort of trust in the groundwork that has been laid by your ancestors.
In other words, to simply "pick and choose" would denigrate the tradition that nikolay has decided to uphold. For some people, death is preferable to the dissolution of one's identity.
I guess what I'm missing here, is how does one come to such a decision. After all, the "tradition" is just an arbitrary set of rules that was made up by someone sometime in the past. I mean, even the name "Eastern Orthodox Christian" reveals that it's a refinement of Christianity, which is itself a refinement of Judaism, which is itself probably a refinement of something else that just wasn't written down. And all refinements keep changing; e.g. Jews shouldn't use "fire" on Sabbath (originally, AFAIK), but they adapted that to modern times to include "electricity" as well.
So my question (or failure to understand) is exactly this conscious choice - what makes one consciously decide that a set of rules made up by someone else, which may or may not still be relevant, is the best way to conduct one's life? I guess uprbringing has a lot to do with this - religious people rarely go window-shopping to see which religion is "the best" - but IMO the idea of growing up is that you make independent decisions about your life (which ideally includes learning from others - adopting other people's rules - and learning from experience - changing your rules), possibly contrary to what your parents though and taught you were the best choices.
Edit: also, I would like to point out that I see the following as distinct choices that one can make more-or-less independently: belief (into the general framework your religion describes, e.g. how the world was created), obedience/following (of religious rules, e.g. Muslims shouldn't eat pork), and belonging to community (e.g. you might not eat pork just because you don't want to be excluded from the Jewish community).
(Speaking from experience; I used to be a true believer.)
That may not be the best. But good enough given the circumstances (time, community, energy, freedom, incentives, capacity, will, goals)?
Analogy: what makes you decide that using a fork is (not) the best way to eat some sorts of food? What makes you decide that a pair of trousers is (not) the most appropriate dress for a person? What makes you decide that nudity is (not) appropriate in a given context?
That's a piece of practical, ornemental, societal, cultural refinements made by a set of people, over centuries. And it IS practical/ornemental/societal/cultural. But what if there was an other, universal, better way? What if not? Or what if, but not (yet) in our reach?
Now, of course, if you visit a Roman Catholic mass and a Byzantine Catholic liturgy, many aspects will be different (although there will also be many similarities). The churches will celebrate different feast days, they will fast on different days and in different manners, there will be different saints venerated, etc.
So does this mean that these traditions are arbitrary? I don't think so. How and when one fasts will vary, but the fact that one should fast does not. And the dates of a fast are not picked randomly --- in fact, if you look at any tradition of any of these churches, you will find very deep reasons for that particular tradition. It's just that there's not one right answer, so different churches have evolved their own unique answers (and in doing so, have emphasized slightly different aspects of the underlying theological truths).
So then why shouldn't a Roman Catholic like myself try out all the different churches until I find one that I like the best for myself? Living in a multicultural country like the United States, this part is harder to convey. But there is, I think, a great value in living in a society that practices its religion in a similar way. As an analogy, I could just decide that I would rather celebrate Thanksgiving on May 21 every year. But there's some value in living in a society where everyone, collectively, celebrates Thanksgiving on the same day so that families can get together and we can watch football and eat turkey. So while I could come up with my own way of practicing Christianity that would, in some sense, be valid, there is enormous value in accepting the traditions of my community that have evolved over centuries.
This all gets to a larger point in the Orthodox and Catholic faiths about hubris and respect for tradition. The idea is that, in general, practices don't stick around for centuries unless there's a good reason for it. You or I might not immediately understand what that reason is, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one. Moreover, and this is in contrast to many Protestant faiths, there is an idea in Catholicism and Orthodoxy that many truths come to us through Tradition rather than through Scripture. That is, Christ taught certain things to his Apostles, who taught them to the earliest Christians, who continued to pass them down the centuries. Some of these things were written down in Scripture, but not all. So, for instance, you won't find a passage in the Bible that forbids bishops from being married. But no Catholic or Orthodox bishops are married because this is a part of our tradition. But respect for tradition doesn't mean that the tradition is static. It just means that it changes only gradually and deliberately.
Orthodox christian religion is i.m.o. not helpful at all when coping with death.
One women I know that was sick in cancer said it like this to a friend of mine: I have been with him [Jesus] too long to leave Him now.
Given a deity and an afterlife, I don't think that argument holds up. Generally the idea of God is that they understand a lot more than humans do or can. (Whether that's true or not is a different question, of course.)
Being Christian has nothing to do with either believing that God has its hand in everything that governs your one personal life, or that it will actively intervene in a perceptible way, either believing that death is a punishment or a lesson or easy stuff or anything of this sort.
Although one may always add such opinions, or bigotry, to any kind of faith (be it Christian or not).
I mean, you may believe in God, or not, that won't stop the world. That won't make life different than what it is: you live, you die, shit happens, for some reason, or just because of no reason particular to you.
The core of being Christian is believing in the Credo (which is sort of crazy, indeed, and that's totally accepted) and following Jesus way (and even Brian's one - you know: always look at the bright side of life) and spirit. Which requires some sort of introspection, observation, patience, love, etc. Not to say it's easy either.
Then you add what tradition (catholic, eastern, orthodox, protestant, or so many others) you're in, or you've chosen.
What you believe is one thing. That should logically not prevent you from living and seeking.
(Catholic writing here)
There's a massive variation in belief and practices amongst people who call themselves Christian. And I don't recall Jesus saying that you shouldn't do euthanasia for terminal cancer. He was generally a caring guy. Most of the anti stuff comes from right wing nutters born long after Jesus's death who I'd be happy to disregard.
Jesus didn't speak about how to reply to comments on Hacker News either, but that doesn't mean that Christians are given no insight on how he or she should conduct himself or herself here.
>Most of the anti stuff comes from right wing nutters
I do hope you will evaluate this opinion more critically. I mean, I'm pretty sure Aquinas was against euthanasia, and that would have been well in line with the Judeo-Christian views on the issue throughout history.
Actually I suspect that there were a few changes in the the first first centuries AD that make the 'averaging' of history quite an interesting topic.
What about all the other different branches of Christianity then? Catholicism, anglicans? adventists etc
Are they not Christian?
The irony, is that sometimes, someone in palliative care might live longer than someone being actively treated. Here is an extreme example. Less extreme examples ocurr every day as people undergo tests and treatments which end up precipitating the general condition of the person. 70 years old and heart arteries fully blocked and only auxiliary perfusion? DON'T go get a stress test, you already know the outcome and no significant difference will be occur in treatment.
Ask any health professional how they want to die, and almost none of them will want to "do everything possible to treat". They've seen it and it sucks: doing chest compressions, thus breaking ribs of frail elders, all because their children refuse to see them let go; seeing people with tubes up every orifice and yet still in pain, away from loved ones and surrounded by strangers… no thanks!
Public Service Announcement: if you don't have any yet, make some Adcanced Directives to document what should be done to you should you become incapacitated. You can always revise them on a yearly basis.
St Robert Bellarmine wrote "The Art of Dying Well"; for non-Catholics there are other similar writings about how to live a full life without pretending that death will never happen.
 A terminal phase Greek cancer patient leaves NY to die in peace in his Greek island and outlives all his doctors.
Non-essential stuff like what? Fast Cars? Games? Music? You tube? maybe Religion?
Imagine all the money/smart people that are currently involved in religions because of some random reason and could be working on meaningful things... The Catholic church alone could pay for cancer research for a 100 years.
My point is what is essential to you, is not for me.
It's just as important to live as it is to not die.
If you are curious you should read a bit about the history of Christianity, e.g. a Eastern Orthodox Christianity tends to be more entrenched in tradition than modern Catholic Christianity. You don't have to be a believer to read about history.