The Gerontologist, Vol 34, Issue 1 66-72, Copyright © 1994 by The Gerontological Society of America
Is dying young worse than dying old?
NS Jecker and LJ Schneiderman
University of Washington, Department of Medical History and Ethics, Seattle 98195.
In contemporary Western society, people experience the deaths of older and
younger persons differently. We are disposed to feel that the death of a
small child is a greater injustice than the death of an older adult, and we
experience correspondingly greater sorrow, anger, regret or bitterness when
a very young person dies. This article examines these responses critically
to determine whether they are backed by ethical considerations that reason
can discern and defend. We contrast contemporary attitudes with those of
ancient Greece and show the relevance that different attitudes toward death
have for health care decision making.