Is it better to die suddenly or slowly?
Being a doctor and a former editor of the British Medical Journal, Dr. Richard Smith is quite familiar with disease and death. And he has reached the conclusion that the best way to die is from cancer - and that's why society should "stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer."
In a controversial blog post over at the BMJ, Dr. Smith explained that, besides suicide, assisted or otherwise, there are four types of death: sudden death; the long and slow death of dementia; death from organ failure, and death from cancer.
When he asked people how they wanted to die, most chose sudden death. "That may be OK for you," Dr. Smith said, "but it may be very tough on those around you, particularly if you leave an important relationship wounded and unhealed. If you want to die suddenly, live every day as your last, making sure that all important relationships are in good shape, your affairs are in order, and instructions for your funeral neatly typed and in a top draw - or perhaps better on Facebook."
The worse type of death, according to Dr. Smith, is the long and slow death from dementia. "You are slowly erased," but with the upside of "when death comes, it may be just a light kiss."
Death from organ failure, such as from respiratory, cardiac, or kidney failure, usually means that you spend far too much of the last moments in your life in a hospital and in the hands of doctors, who may be tempted to "go on treating too long."
So that leaves death from cancer, which according to Dr. Smith allows you to "say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read love poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion." It's a romantic view of death, Dr. Smith acknowledges, but it's one that is achievable with "love, morphine, and whisky."
Not every doctor, however, shares Dr. Smith's views. "Of course we are all going to die, but cancer takes far too many people far too young," said Cancer Research UK's chief clinician Peter Johnson said to The Telegraph.