Embracing End-of-Life Planning, Not The Myth of the “American Immortal”


The “American Immortal” – the term sounds majestic, befitting of our high opinion of ourselves as Americans, culturally and politically, on the world stage.

But the term actually has more basic origins and is meant to convey an entirely different message.

Coined by Ezekiel Emanuel, an American bioethicist and Center for American Progress fellow, in a recent article for the Atlantic, the term describes the impulse Americans have to subject ourselves to the multitude of fitness crazes, brain training exercises, new trendy diets, supplements and other aids intended, or at least marketed, as able to improve and extend our lives.

While there is something to be said for sticking to a healthy diet and getting regular exercise from a quality-of-life standpoint, this movement has implications for how we approach the topic of death generally, and of our own demise, specifically.

Although more people are starting to have the conversation about end-of-life planning, there is still a lot of discomfort with the topic and at times, an outright refusal to acknowledge it.

Striving to combat the evidence of aging – with shakes and serums and supplements – rather than embracing it, and preparing for it, is ultimately a futile exercise.

By contrast, having the conversation with your health care provider, your loved ones, and your friends about your wishes at the end of your life is the best tool in your arsenal for preparing for death. Just by filling out an advance directive, you get the peace of mind of knowing your family will not be burdened with trying to guess your wishes once you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

Then you can return to the day-to-day exercise of living – preserving your health and getting the most out of life.

So go ahead and drink that kale shake, but only because it’s good for you and it tastes good – not because you are laboring under the delusion that you are one hardy cabbage away from “immortality.”

[Photo Credit: Joanna Slodownik on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]