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{Empty title} | The Nation

I have to say that I am disappointed. In his entire essay, Alexander Provan never once took note of the most obvious benefit of every person's eventual death: it will enlarge the space in which other human beings may live. Even if it should turn out that I have no spiritual afterlife, I know that the cessation of my biological processes will give children on this Earth more space in which to grow. The prospect that I may die in the infirmity of extreme old age gives me the additional pleasure of reflecting that after I die, I will no longer impose chores and economic burdens upon younger people. This knowledge gives me more comfort and satisfaction than any navel-gazing philosopher's attempt to achieve immortality in either body or soul. And all that I need to do to embrace it is overcome my own selfishness.

There is something very vampire-like about the desire to live forever. At some point, I believe my desire to keep myself alive at the expense of the young should be considered excessive. I cannot tell others what to think, but for my part, I believe the limits that I choose to impose upon artificial means of life support for my own body are affirmations of my conviction that my death will one day be a natural and indeed a welcome event. If I selfishly refuse to die for too long, I will deny future generations the benefits of life that I have been privileged to enjoy. But if I manage, by means of a carefully crafted will, to die at the proper time, I will enable future generations to live as long, and as well, as I have. Justice demands neither more nor less.