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Can I choose the cause of my death?

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 21 April 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1003
  1. A Indrayan, professor, division of biostatistics and medical informatics
  1. Delhi

    Death is an ultimate truth. It can only be postponed, not denied. Since the sum total of the probabilities of death by various causes is one, they end up competing with one another. If I do not die from tuberculosis I may die from cancer. This raises the question of whether medical science should focus on some specific causes of death at the expense of the others.

    Heart failure in old age need not be prevented but possibly promoted

    If deaths cannot be prevented altogether are there any causes more desirable than others? In a survey in Japan old people expressed a preference for heart disease as the cause of death rather than dementia, cancer, or stroke. Most would agree that sudden death is far more welcome than a slow, incapacitating, and painful death. It would be nice to see a day when everybody would die suddenly in old age …

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