Views & Reviews Review

Death becomes us

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c79 (Published 06 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c79
  1. Richard Smith, director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative
  1. richardswsmith{at}yahoo.co.uk

    Thinking about mortality helps us to achieve a fuller and more contented life, argues Richard Smith in a review of two new books on death

    Death is tragic, arbitrary, and meaningless but at the same time opens us to a fullness of life that would not exist without it. That it can negate every other element of our lives, including love and wisdom, is what makes it the most important fact about us, argues the American philosopher Todd May. So how should we live in the face of complete negation? How should we think about death? And should doctors, who are sometimes accused of being charlatan salesmen of immortality, pay more attention to the philosophy of death?

    May tackles these questions in his short, readable book—part of a philosophical series on the art of living that also includes books on hunger, fame, work, money, and sex.

    Most people who have ever lived have believed in an afterlife, but this book is not for them: it assumes that we don’t survive our deaths. It is written for those of us privileged enough to …

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