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172352729A vital factor in who we are as individuals is how we conceive of death.

This is because how we conceive of death conditions how we value life.

Few of us value all lives equally, even when it comes to human beings.

Nor do many of us think of our own deaths in the same terms as we do for others.

Some folks may have a degree of clarity in these variations, but I suspect that for most of us the deep questions about life and death are a confused tangle.

Plenty of the day-to-day disquiet of our minds arises from this confusion.

Our mortal struggle is explored by Stephen Caves, a philosopher at the University of Cambridge, in his essay Not Nothing.

“When I squidged it, I summoned the Reaper to my desk. If only briefly, I caught his eye.”

Caves sets out the dilemmas of life/death values starkly then seeks a balance point between them.

The degree to which he succeeds at this depends upon the insight gained by an attentive reader, such as yourself.

I suggest that you read this article and come back to it on successive opportunities for at least three readings.

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Take your understanding of Cave’s analysis into conversation with people in your life.

They may embrace the topic outright, recoil at the mention of death, or dismiss the entire issue as meaningless.

In any of those cases, and the points in between them, you will at least gain a perspective on the various ways that people think about dying and accord value to the living.

 

Image Acknowlegements

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Atul_GawandeAtul Gawande is a surgeon and writer for New Yorker magazine.  His 2014 book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End, is the basis of a Frontline program, Being Mortal, that will air on PBS tonight.

 

The book and program sound fascinating and will likely make for lively Death Café Corvallis conversation.

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1d6f694a30012e2a200ad3b740da4dd6Long standing trends in life expectancy and death rates in America are changing in unexpected ways.

The decade long steady decrease in the death rate for middle-age white Americans has turned around in the last few years.

On the whole the US mortality rate has declined about 2 percent per year, meaning that people live longer.

The sudden change in directions comes as a an abrupt surprise to researchers.

Evidence for this change comes from a 2016 article by Princeton Economist and Nobel Prize Laureate Angus Deaton“Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.”

Deaton says that the changes in mortality rates came as such a surprise to the researchers that “pretty quickly we started falling off our chairs because of what we found.”

What he found is “a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013.”

The observed increase in mortality is significant because; “this changeMortality_by_age reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.”

Confirmation of Deaton’s findings come from a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CCD), “Changes in Life Expectancy by Race and Hispanic Origin in the United States, 2013–2014,” led by demographer Elizabeth Arias.

Aris’s findings are that white American women are dying at younger ages.

That is, the life expectancy of white American women declined from from 81.2 years to 81.1 years

That is a small change, but it does mean that the steady increase in life expectancy for white American women has stopped and even slightly reversed.

No one knows why these changes are occurring and there is no basis to suppose that life expectancies will continue to decline.

The CDC defines Life Expectancy as; “the average number of years that a hypothetical group of infants would live at each attained age if the group was subject, throughout its lifetime, to the age-specific death rates prevailing for the actual population in a given year.”

It is important to understand how the science of life expectancy and death rate measurements works so that we may draw warranted inferences and recognize the limits of such knowledge.

In that spirit I will continue to study the current research and report it to you.


Jon facilitates  Death Cafe Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.

Image Acknowledgements

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/197595502372039030/

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