I came across this article and immediately thought of this course. In one of the lectures we discussed the soul and the definition of death. Early definitions of death included the soul leaving the body. However, there were many problems with this definition. One, how can we measure when the soul leaves, and two, the belief in a soul. In this article, Russian scientists believe they have captured an image of the exact moment the soul leaves the body.
In history, death has typically been quick. Now, thanks to medical advances, the process of death is often prolonged. In certain circumstances, modern medicine is able to ward off the disease that is threatening life, and even improve the quality of someone’s last days on Earth. What should medicine do when it cannot save your life? It should prolong an individual’s life or it can improve the quality of those final days.
In the article, “Letting Go” a young woman named Sara finds out she has lung cancer during her pregnancy. After inducing labor, she began cancer treatment with a myriad of treatments and drugs. Once one drug failed, the doctors tried another and another and Sara grew sicker and sicker. So one might ask, why go through the agonizing process of medical treatment when ultimately you will die from the disease? Well, in this case, Sara probably wanted to prolong her life so she could spend some time with her newborn daughter. In her mind, the expensive medical treatments were worth it to see her daughter grow up, even if only for a short time.
In other instances, the patient may want to prolong their life for other reasons, such as saying goodbye or spending time with family before they pass. This can be a great gift. Car accident victims, for example, would not get the opportunity to say bye to their loved ones or leave any last wishes. Another gift medicine can provide when not saving your life is to give temporary relief. If a patient is terminally ill, there is a good chance they are in a great deal of pain. Medicine is a way to help relieve some of their suffering, so their last moments can be more comfortable.
The comic posted above brings up a very interesting point. I would agree that I would like to know when and where I will die. That way, I could do all the things I want to do before I go. Essentially, this is the gift medicine gives us. It allows those with an illness to prolong life, so they can say their final goodbyes. However, the comic brings up another noteworthy thought when he says, “..so I can avoid it” Eventually everyone dies, so medicine does not prevent the death, it just holds it off for a later date.
When I think of a character’s death, my mind immediately goes to Pay It Forward. In this film, an eleven-year-old boy named Trevor is given a homework assignment to do something to change the world. Trevor devises a system in which you do a favor for three random people. However, these favors must be an act the people cannot perform themselves. When completing these favors, he asks the person to ‘pay it forward’ and to do the same for three strangers. The movement quickly spread in the area. At the end of the film, Trevor sees two boys beating up another kid, and decides to try and help. However, one of the bullies pulls out a knife and stabs Trevor.
In this case, Trevor’s death is sudden and traumatic. The reason I think of this film when thinking of death is because his death was so unexpected. Trevor’s death scene took only a little over two minutes, in a film that lasted 123 minutes. His death is the most memorable part of the movie for me, and that’s because of how the media chose to portray his death. In this case, media influences how we see death, because many times in films and television, a character’s death is traumatic. Very rarely does a person die from old age in movies or television.
In the hospital after Trevor was stabbed, you see the mom and her boyfriend waiting, when the doctor approaches, says a few words, and the mom collapses in tears. The word ‘dead’ was never used, or even any synonyms of the word. We knew Trevor died simply from the imagery used. This could be the fact that our culture does like talking about death. We use it to make a powerful movie, but to actually say it is too forward. Even though we could not hear what the doctor said, and even though we did not hear the word ‘dead’, there was no confusion that Trevor had died.
News of Trevor’s death was played on TV. The final scene of the film showed Trevor’s mom and her boyfriend watching home movies, when they look out the window to see thousands of people who were affected by the ‘pay it forward’ movement. All the people were holding candles as a tribute to Trevor. This final scene was visually powerful, because the audience was able to see the number of people who were affected by Trevor’s death. Still, the media did not show what happened to the boys who stabbed Trevor or their consequences. It was almost like the media chose to avoid the actual issues of his death, and left his death on a positive note because of the changes he made in his short life.