We Should Let the Dying Die

Fifty years ago, medicine was already doing too good a job of keeping terminally ill patients alive.

A woman holder her dying parent's hand

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A woman holder her dying parent's hand

Modern medicine keeps prolonging our life expectancy, and this sounds like progress. But medical men, in their ardor to keep weary lungs breathing and exhausted hearts beating, have devoted relatively little attention to the elemental and inevitable phenomenon of dying. Dominant present-day medical attitudes, pushed to their logical extreme, will do away with natural death entirely. In this respect, life seems today to have become a matter of quantity, not quality. Spending up to 22 hours a day, for almost two months, in the hospital room of someone you love, witnessing not the prolongation of life but the long-drawing-out of dying, leaves you looking at such things quite differently from the way you ever had before. As I look back on my beloved sister’s purposeless agony, I hear an echo of the Fifth Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

—“Let the Dying Die”
by Paul Moor,
September 9, 1966

This article is featured in the March/April 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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