X-Message-Number: 287
From: Kevin Q. Brown
Subject: Legalized Murder and Theft 
Date: 3 Apr 1991

I recently heard that a friend's grandmother had succumbed to pneumonia.
The relatives had the funeral and then began distributing the
grandmother's possessions amongst themselves.  There is nothing new or
unusual about this.  It is old as humanity and universally considered
proper and ethical.  Until I learned of an alternative I would have had
to agree.  Now I see the world with different eyes.

Imagine what the same situation must look like from the point of view of
someone, say, one hundred years from now, when the major diseases of aging
have been cured.  (Choose whatever date seems correct to you; I will use
one hundred years from now, since it is a nice, round number and, from what
I have read, seems to be the right order of magnitude.)  The unfortunate
grandmother was embalmed and then buried or cremated when she suffered only
from ailments with straightforward remedies.  What killed her was not the
pneumonia but rather the rotting after burial or burning during cremation.
The same actions that in 1991 were standard practice and considered proper
and ethical became, one hundred years later, murder and theft.
Furthermore, it was legalized murder and theft, because as soon as she
became physically totally helpless and the doctor signed that piece of
paper certifying legal death, the poor grandmother lost all her rights.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or anything else) disappeared
with the stroke of a pen.

Now shift back to 1991.  Given the state of our medicine, the accusation
of legalized murder and theft now sounds ludicrous, except for one thing.
The perspective from one hundred years from now is the correct perspective
to take.  This is because, with the availability of cryonic suspension,
it applies even now, in 1991.  Even though we are not certain that the
current techniques for cryonic suspension (or the current organizations for
maintaining suspension patients) will succeed, the real possibility (as
indicated recently in messages #283 and #284 on the scientific basis of
cryonics) that a terminal patient of today can safely be preserved for the
medicine of tomorrow changes our standards, and our responsibilities, to those
of tomorrow.  This possibility of "time travel" from the present to the future
changes the old rules.  It used to be sufficient for a person living in the
20th century to think in 20th century terms.  This link to the future, if
one chooses to acknowledge it, makes one see with different eyes.
                                       - Kevin Q. Brown
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