Where things will go your way...or they won't

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Saving Lives(misanthropic wednesday blogging)

Linsay Beyerstein has a an interesting post about how easy it would be to stop deaths from the flu. I have no problem with her larger point, that we have the ability to drastically reduce the number of deaths from influenza. She ends the post with this.

"...it is utterly within our power to save roughly 28,000 lives per year, and yet we fail to do so."

Apparently the good of this end i.e. saving lives, is self evident. I, however, am not so sure. This kind of talk about "saving lives" inundates the media and our culture. It leads to Utopian programs like Zero Fatalities in my home state of Utah.

I suppose I have two problems with this, the first is grammatical/semantical and may be somewhat petty, but I still think it is valid.

There can be no such thing as "saving lives." What you can do is "save lives for now." I know it is difficult to comprehend, but no life is forever. Everyone dies. Therefore it should be known as "postponing death" not "saving lives." As far as the grim reaper is concerned if it is not one thing then it is another. The underlying implication of the "saving lives" formulation is that this is some kind of inherent good, which assumes that dying in particular time and place is better that at some other time and place. I don't know about ya'll, but I'm pretty sure death sucks no matter when it happens. Got that, Death Bad!

Or is it? Certainly, many of the presumed lives saved in programs such as vaccination and education programs to stop deadly behavior are going people of no particular worth, and may in fact be bad people. The argument that the next Einstein might die in a car wreck is specious. The next Ted Bundy might die as well, and given that of those of us who are still alive are mostly are flawed, corruptible and many times just bad, it would seem that these life saving programs do as much to deflate the quality of life as to increase it.

Now, obviously, I don't want to be the person deciding who life is worth saving and whose isn't but I not sure indiscriminate life saving is such an obvious good as it is made out to be. I'm just sayin'.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Nicely put. I always find arguments such as "saving lives" to be ideologically biased that I can't get behind it. Makes me want to do the opposite of save lives. A huge part of me used to believe that more people should die e.g. it's bad for the planet but then I began to think about how population control should be done from the outset, with things like health care and putrid-free water. Healthy people reproduce fewer children because the bets on that they'll live. Since we can't save everyone forever, as you note, it's probably best to make the water clean and provide some health care to more people than to fix one certain disease like the flu.
I know. This goes on. And isn't as to the point as your post. ANd I have my own blog. I just don't like it right now.