Life is a terminal condition


They say that we in Britain are unwilling to talk about death, and are embarrassed by it.  I can’t say that I’ve noticed that myself, although I don’t spend an awful lot of time discussing the subject.

We’re born, we grow up, we raise children (most of us), and eventually we die.  These days people love to talk about “closure”, and death is surely the ultimate and inevitable (but also the proper and appropriate) closure to life, whether or not you choose to believe in an afterlife.

That said, most of us would rather die later rather than sooner, especially if we have a prospect of future years of tolerable health and activity.  I’ve always liked Woody Allen’s aperçu on death: “I’m not afraid of death – I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.  But I guess the ideal death was best described by John Keats: “To cease upon the midnight with no pain”.  But not quite yet, please.

However we now have a doctor, no less, telling us that maybe cancer is quite a good way to die.  We should be glad of it.  After all we all have to die of something, and cancer at least gives us time to come to terms with the idea, to set our affairs in order, and to take leave of our loved ones.  So we should stop “wasting” billions on research designed to cure or eliminate it.

This doctor is one Richard Smith (remind me not to sign on at his surgery, please).

But what about the pain and anguish associated with the disease? Not a problem, says the good doctor.  Palliative medicine and pain relief are now so good and effective that these little unpleasantnesses can be largely avoided.  I fear that many cancer sufferers and their loved ones might take a different view.

I’ve tried to come to terms with this idea, but I have to say that I’m appalled.  There are many unpleasant and painful and distressing degenerative and other diseases from which we might die.  But I think most of us, given the choice, would prefer to avoid them if we could, and die quietly of old age when the time comes.

Dr. Smith seems to assume that cancer only strikes the old.  Does he have no thought or compassion for children, for teenagers, for active parents in middle life who are struck down by the “Big C”?  Are they not worthy of a cure?  Does he have no concern about the impact of cancer on our health services?  It was recently described as “a crisis of unimaginable proportions” for the NHS.

We have had it drummed into us that cancer is caused by our bad lifestyles, by smoking, air pollution, alcohol, red meat and ham and sausages, or sunshine and obesity.  So it was salutary to read of a recent study suggesting that only around a third of cancers are lifestyle-related, while the other two thirds are the result of random mutations on cell division that could affect any of us regardless of lifestyle.   It seems that the biggest lifestyle carcinogen is smoking (so I’m rather glad I gave up the habit forty years ago).

More generally, it’s difficult to square the constant warnings that human activity and pollution and lifestyle are a threat to the survival of the species with the unprecedented and welcome rise in life-expectancy.

I’m afraid that Dr. Smith is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Sensible people want a healthy and active old age, untroubled by cancer and other diseases.  But his suggestion has had one positive effect: I’ll send a small cheque to cancer research.

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23 Responses to Life is a terminal condition

  1. PJ says:

    Good mornin g Roger, I did wonder if you would pick up on this buffoon and his ludicrous suggestions. As a cancer sufferer myself I haven’t found it to be a painless, pleasant experience-even with this rather marvellous array of ‘near afterlife’ drugs he describes! Cancer is a b*****d (sorry Roger) but this villainous Dr Richard “The Crackpot” Smith is a bigger one – or perhaps even born as such.! If so, I congratulate him on maintaining such status.
    Yes, we would all like to ‘peg out’ nice & quietly in our sleep but as we well know, it is not a perfect world. His ludicrous statement is akin to the idiotic notion of “he/she died prematurely” – there is no such thing, as no one, – but no one – has a D.o.D stamped about their person when born!
    Finally let me say that having visited many pre-op/post-op laryngeal/oral cancer patients, I can assure everyone that they are NOT pain free at all – in fact, I don’t know of any cancer that is pain free!

    • PJ says:

      As for CRUK….. how can anyone give them a copper coin when they are happy to waste £8,500,000 on anti tobacco hatred creating advertisements per year when ‘apparently’ “every penny of your donations goes to research” – like bloody hell it does!

  2. Peter Palmer says:

    One area that does seem to slip under the radar is cancer research.
    This multi-billion pound industry rolls on relentlessly.
    One would have thought that by now we should not only fully understand all of the causes but how to rectify the cell mutations.
    Am I being overly cynical in wondering what role big-money interests have in the career longevity of cancer researchers and the huge profits to be made by not solving the problem?

    • Flyinthesky says:

      I have persued this avenue quite extensively, the more you look into it the more disappointing and depressing it gets.
      Cancer treatments must fulfill a few conditions, they must be patentable and they must be very lucrative and ideally be an ongoing and lifelong therapy.
      Cancer is one of the top earning businesses on the planet.

      A quote from a former vice-president of Pfizer: It is scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and deaths, and the side effects are the same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry. … Extracted from this work by an eminent professor.

      Gotzsche, Peter. Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare. Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.

      If one would happen to discover an unpatentable blanket cure for cancer one would either be very rich and sworn to annominity or mysteriously dissappear by weekend.
      All is not how it seems, these are not nice people.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Thanks for this, it reflects the harm done by money making Statins that can have a high incidence of very nasty side effects. I kicked mine, they were putting me into a wheel chair and have killed or crippled more than seems reasonable.

      • Flyinthesky says:

        Hi Brin, google Dr Malcolm Kendrick if you wish to expand your perspective. Statins: You won’t live fifteen years longer but you will feel fifteen years older. Most politicians accept the mainstream perspective. On the statin issue the government have accepted that their overall liability will be reduced by promoting statin use, by the entities that sell them. It’s a big area, go take a look.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        I mentioned this on a Statin damaged mail list and your good Doctor is well known, again many thanks

      • I hate to be counter-consensual, but I’ve been on statins for a quarter of a century, and high-dose statins for the last five years, yet I’m in pretty fair shape for my age, and working as intensively as I did in my forties — if not more so. I understand of course that some people do indeed suffer adverse side effects from statins, but they do seem to be in a minority.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        I believe some people don’t have Statin side effects, and the 10% improvement in survival rates is worth while for them. All I would say is read the possible side effects, and be prepared to raise them if need be, I personally knew two local people who died as a result of Statins, one female developed Motor Neuron Disease lasting only 12 months from first stumbling.

        In June of this year I was weeks away from a wheel chair, unable to put my own socks on or climb stairs other than one at a time. 14 days after kicking them I was much improved and now can do a little jig, and walking without a stick. Talking to users I think probably most folk do have minor effects that are put down to aging.

      • Flyinthesky says:

        Roger, I wish more people would be “counter-consensual” I am not out of hand dismissing the posiible benefit of some people taking statins, what I do seriously think, considering possible catastrophic side effects, is their use as a prophylactic. The consensus is that cholesterol is the enemy, the lower your level the longer you live, the truth is the exact opposite. At low levels there is a distinct increase in all cause mortality.
        There is also some unfunded, very important distinction, work by some very eminant scientists that cholesterol isn’t the bogey man that is is portrayed as.
        Statins may do some good for some people but they are not the life extending panacea that they are presented as.

  3. Brin Jenkins says:

    It should be everyone’s ambition to get older, consider the only alternative?

    I had a thought put to me a couple of days ago, there is little profit in a cure. The big money is in on going treatments, would it be cynical to think the International Pharmaceutical Companies are primarily concerned with profits than our well being?


    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Think I heard the delightful BBC last night with one of their medical specials. Too high a dose of opiates being prescribed. Its a sorry story, not that the BBC were being…sorry. Just cold and rather insensitive.

      Not that I know anything about opiates (big dose) but I would have thought if the pain had not diminished significantly you might be a bit sleepy? Not much of a discussion around that but appears its not the only drug being prescribed…all at once. Dunno..just hope I don’t get there or into one of their hospitals where I do note the English language tends to be a bit pidgin. Alarmingly bad.

      So not much can be done about pain it certain circumstances. I am a bit surprised by that. Thought it was the new modern world..or something?

      So Paris gets a bit of a come-uppance. Who lives there…ummm, not sure. Well, you suddenly get to find out.

  4. Jane Davies says:

    I think we have sussed the fact that cancer research is a big money spinner and finding “the cure” is a bit like getting turkeys to vote for Christmas, but that said there are many and varied different cancers and some people are still around thanks to the research and treatment. The big pharmaceutical companies have too much control on what methods are used and stifle anything that does not have their stamp of approval or that they can make zillions of dosh on. For example cannabis oil has been proven to be beneficial for cancer, in fact many people swear by it’s healing property’s but this is an “illegal” substance and the big Pharma organisations have to much control over politicians and I can’t see this being on the open market any time soon.
    As for this idiot Doctor…..I commented on an article in which his stupid views were published, we have to just dismiss him as a crackpot, my comment was the same as your’s Roger, we had a little two year old here locally, who was diagnosed with cancer at just a few months old, she spent her short life fighting this insidious illness and passed away before her second birthday last year, I should imagine her family would have a different opinion and would enlighten his ignorance.
    No doubt he is regretting what he has said as I would think his patient list is now zero. Shooting oneself in the foot is never a good idea!

    • Flyinthesky says:

      In the US the FDA has oversight on all drugs, what isn’t said is all the information that the FDA acts upon is generated by the big pharma companies, the net result is the producers are directing the regulators. It all works the same.
      GM food, feed the world, Pharmacology, save the world. To both these entities and many others altruism is an abstract concept. Whatever they profess.
      Canabis oil falls foul of the unpatentable, who buried it, the big pharmas of course. We can’t have people curing themselves now can we.
      Vitamins and suppliments have fallen foul of the same scenario. If we take St Johns wort as an example, an effective treatment for low level depression. We can’t have people taking this when we have an expesive and patented alternative to sell now can we. So we are going to lobby the government to illustrate the erroneous potential dangers, successfully, of allowing people to look after their own wellbeing. You couldn’t make it up, they have, and we’ve let them.
      Beware expert opinion as the principal, and often only, beneficiary is the expert.
      Contribution to high profile health charities, makes us feel good, I’ve done it on numerous occasions myself, you might as well burn it and warm your hands on the flames. They are all in the thrall of the bid pharma companies. Very little arrives at your intended destination.

  5. omanuel says:

    Having just celebrated my 79th New Year, I am now well aware that life is terminal and that the amount we know pales in comparison to what we don’t know.

    While waiting for reviewers comments on a manuscript submitted for review last year, this copy was prepared for on-line review and improvement:

    Click to access 20150106Solar_Energy_For_Review.pdf

    In addition to correcting typographical errors, the description was improved on p. 3 of nuclear forces and modes of nuclear decay.

    Failure to communicate this earlier likely delayed acceptance of neutron repulsion as an important source of energy in heavy atoms, planets, stars and galaxies when the mass exceeds 150 amu (atomic mass units).

    Comments, corrections or criticism would be appreciated from anyone, especially anyone with insight on the way invisible electromagnetic waves (EMW) or force fields from the Sun’s pulsar core hold subatomic particles together to create the illusion of solid atoms, lives and worlds in the solar system today, . . .

    a volume of space that has expanded from the Sun and is now greater than the combined volumes of ten billion, billion Earth’s.

    Comments, corrections and criticisms are welcomed from this group.

    • Flyinthesky says:

      Not being as smart as you and not sharing the same areas of interest I can only respond philosophically:
      We “know” almost nothing about almost everthing, that’s an absolute in my world.
      There is almost no power to be conferred by the statement “We Think” so instead we tend to use the terminology “We Know”, we don’t but the potential is increased exponentially. Unless we expend a lot of effort and expense, bearing in mind there’s not a buck in it, we accept.
      A lot of things that we tend to accept as fact are indeed vested interest postulations not facts, Climate science being a prime example.
      Almost everthing that we have to endure is agenda driven, that agenda isn’t ours.

  6. catweazle666 says:

    Life is a terminal condition

    Which is sexually transmitted, of course.

    So clearly, we need to ban sex…

    Oops, I’d better shut up, I’ll give them ideas, the likes of Dr. Smith appear daft enough to think that’s a good idea.

  7. Maureen Gannon says:

    I am one of those who are constantly being told my age group and above are a burden on the state, I still lead an active life even though I am in my eighties,
    I have never wished anyone harm but having seen my dearest sister in law at the age of 54 die in the King Edward hospital of bone cancer to have her pleading for me to help her to die ,[they allowed me to sleep over to be with her 24/7] I hope he does not suffer her pain, but the affect it has on the family is inhuman,, I listened to her ribs break if she turned suddenly, not a way I would want to go thank you sir.
    As for everything to do with the drug companies and death they are all on the make even the funeral costs are spiraling so I discussed it with my daughters and made my wishes clear the have agreed indeed it has given them somthing to consider . I have donated my body to medical science and been acepted so they will hold a gathering of friends to say farewell have I hope a good laugh at the memories shared , so the only cost will be a buffet and a celebration of my life. we have no need to talk of it again , so we can get on with living .

    • Jane Davies says:

      I applaud you Maureen for your frank discussion with your daughters and as you say you can now get on with living. One thing I have noticed in the past eight years of living in Canada is that people rarely have funeral services any more. I’m sure the rip off costs come into it and more often than not a private cremation takes place and then family and friends gather for a small celebration of life at a later date. Unless one is religious this is by far a much better way to remember the dearly departed and the money is spent on food and drink and a gathering of loved ones and stories of a life, hopefully, well lived. It seems that we are ripped off from the moment we come into the world and also for the ceremony of farewell when we leave this world and not being religious I think this way is far better than wasting vast amounts of money for funeral service with or without religious input.

      • Maureen Gannon says:

        Thank you Jane life taught me that there were things in life that would not be problem unless you made them one by denying them,, such as the vultures that attend funerals and the turmoil should they not get all they wanted so I eliminated that by when I drew up my will I gave it to everyone to read and said anything you feel you could change lets discuss they were happy with what was there so once again a closed book no problems , its never been talked of since so like the disposal of my remains another book closed all they have to do is contact the Anatomy office it’s sorted.
        My Eldest has gone to live in Canada, I cannot see her returning.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Is your daughter aware that she will have her state pension frozen by the UK government? If she had gone to live in the USA she would still get her rightful annual cost of living increases. This theft and discrimination is allowed to go on and by the way Roger…this is an election issue, the rights of just 4% are denied them just because of where they live once retired. Totally outrageous.

  8. Alan Wheatley says:

    As a long-standing UKIP Member I am always please to hear what you have to say. As to life being a terminal condition, I think there is an aspect to this that you have not considered.

    If we continue to get better and better at preventing (or substantially delaying) the things that kill us yet do relatively little to avoid the things that debilitate us, especially mentally, then eventually we will end up in a situation where all those that are not ill will be fully occupied looking after all those that are. Obviously, in the ideal world we would put research money into preventing both fatal and debilitating illnesses, but there will never be enough money to do both.

    Currently it seems to me the research emphasis is on fatal illness, and it is easy to see why. But if we aspire “to cease upon the midnight with no pain”, and I think that is what the vast majority would prefer, then we have to make decisions to bring that about. So I think Richard Smith does have a valid point, though perhaps it could be made in a more acceptable manner.

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