Death is Freedom

Marianna Malinovska. “Come to me, all you who are weary…” artwork commissioned by Medical Nemesis

Peace at the hour of death is one of the greatest blessings that  God can give. Death can be very terrible, but peace can transform it. Sister Monica Joan received no intrusive medical treatment, no drugs, no investigations into the cause of the stroke, no attempts to prolong her life or to delay her death. She received loving nursing care from her Sisters and was able to die in piece. This is the perfect end.

Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End

“Death is freedom”, – said a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and an advocate for women who birth as they please, free from obstetric violence of hospitals and patriarchal medicine. The person asked to remain anonymous as a precaution from persecution, ridicule, harassment, and threats from the medical professionals.

A succinct idea that is so ingenious and powerful, it sends mobs of internet users into rage-filled convulsive fits. To decline salvation of medical care? To die? This is not a rephrasing of “the price of freedom is death” frequently used in context of fighting against oppression and slavery. Death is freedom means that you are free to depart this world at any age for any reason under any circumstances. This constitutes the very essence of freedom. Death is not the price you pay for anything. Dying in and of itself is an act of revolt in modern day Western society.

It is not surprising that this truth emerged in the realm of birth. The so called “right to die” (we are talking about natural death not suicide or any active measure to end one’s life) becomes very prominent at the time of birth when a newborn cannot die peacefully because she is tortured on the altar of the idea of abstract life (aka “saving lives”).

At the beginning of the 21st century people in the United States fear and fight death at all cost, even if the cost is incomprehensible suffering and torture. Statistics track reduction in deaths from birth to… death as the main measure of medicine’s success.  Some even go to the length to affirm that a drug/doctor/test/medicine/insurance/Medicare will prevent death altogether. Death is the ultimate failure of modern medicine. Hence it is a silent and salient assumption that “everything must be done to prolong life”. Prolongation of life is equated with prevention of death for added confusion. Definitions of death have been revised to justify medical torture. Conversations about the inevitability of death in healthcare settings are either non-existent or clumsy, veiled, and vague. A perfect storm of factors leads to futile care of the dying that  patient abuse.

The cost of death prevention is staggering. Medicare spending rises with age and peaks at 96, declining slightly at older ages. Spending at age 96 is $16,145, more than double the per capita spending at age 70 ($7,566) (source).

 In every society the dominant image of death determines the prevalent concept of health.1 Such an image, the culturally conditioned anticipation of a certain event at an uncertain date, is shaped by institutional structures, deep-seated myths, and the social character that predominates. A society’s image of death reveals the level of independence of its people, their personal relatedness, self-reliance, and aliveness.2 Wherever the metropolitan medical civilization has penetrated, a novel image of death has been imported. Insofar as this image depends on the new techniques and their corresponding ethos, it is supranational in character. But these very techniques are not culturally neutral; they assumed concrete shape within Western cultures and express a Western ethos. The white man’s image of death has spread with medical civilization and has been a major force in cultural colonization.

The image of a “natural death,” a death which comes under medical care and finds us in good health and old age, is a quite recent ideal.3 In five hundred years it has evolved through five distinct stages, and is now ready for a sixth. Each stage has found its iconographic expression: (1) the fifteenth-century “dance of the dead”; (2) the Renaissance dance at the bidding of the skeleton man, the so-called “Dance of Death”; (3) the bedroom scene of the aging lecher under the Ancien Régime; (4) the nineteenth-century doctor in his struggle against the roaming phantoms of consumption and pestilence; (5) the mid-twentieth-century doctor who steps between the patient and his death; and (6) death under intensive hospital care. At each stage of its evolution the image of natural death has elicited a new set of responses that increasingly acquired a medical character. The history of natural death is the history of the medicalization of the struggle against death.4

Ivan Illich. Medical Nemesis. Chapter 5 Death Against Death

Shall I further affirm that death is the best thing that can happen to  you when the time has come?

Further reading

A Course in Dying. Death personified – the many appearances of death

La Mort Dans L’Art

Hemlock Society


When Medicine Threatens Health

The Growing Crisis of Chronic Disease in the United States 1995-2030 projection

In 1975 Ivan Illich wrote in Medical Nemesis

The medical establishment has become a major threat to health.[…] The threat which current medicine represents to the health of populations is analogous to the threat which the volume and intensity of traffic represent to mobility, the threat which education and the media represent to learning, and the threat which urbanization represents to competence in homemaking. In each case a major institutional endeavor has turned counterproductive.

If we look at a combination of healthcare spending and health sector job growth, we can see that the number of healthcare jobs and the amount of money we spend on healthcare is directly proportional to the increasing number of sick people. Sickness is driving our economy.

Percentage of total private-sector employment in private-sector health care industries. 1958-2008. U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics
Healthcare spending in the United States 1960-2010. Huffington Post
Growth in Total Health Expenditure Per Capita, U.S. and Selected Countries, 1970-2008 (source: Kaiser Family Foundation). Forbes

The current thought on both liberal and conservative fronts never touches the holy cow of medicine as the culprit. All human suffering or money related discussions accept medicine’s status quo. Opinions only differ where the funding comes, whether private or public entities should be in charge, what kind of medicine should practiced (preventive vs. reactive), and who should be getting the money of the increasingly disabled citizen. Nobody questions the very need to engage in the medical health preservation sham.

Ivan Illich outlines why an overgrown professional and physician-based healthcare system is sickening

  • It produces clinical damage that outweighs its potential benefits.
  • It enhances and obscures the political conditions that make society unhealthy.
  • It mystifies and expropriates the power of the individual to heal him/herself and to shape his or her environment.

The medical and paramedical monopoly over hygienic methodology and technology is a glaring example of the political misuse of scientific achievement to strengthen industrial rather than personal growth. Such medicine is but a device to convince those who are sick and tired of society that it is they who are ill, impotent, and in need of technical repair.

The solution is NOT to have more or better healthcare but to deal with our human weakness, vulnerability, and uniqueness in a personal and autonomous way.

When Medicine Threatens Human Rights

Eugène Delacroix. Liberty Leading the People (French: La Liberté guidant le peuple) (1830) . Louvre

The tyranny of state sponsored “science”-based medicine infringes upon the citizen rights to

  • self-determination;
  • liberty;
  • freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment;
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;
  • the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
  • the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services […].

Science-Based Medicine misinterprets right to medical care as the obligation to subject yourself to the mercy of a therapeutic state against your better judgement, opinion, worldview, philosophy, or religion. This medicine sponsored blog openly calls to take away freedoms and rights protected in the US Constitution and the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

All children deserve rational, science-based medical care. […] All religious and philosophical exemption laws should be repealed.

Science-Based Medicine political stance is based on several erroneous and contested beliefs, decried by scientific thought itself:

  • The belief that there is single truth, tracing its roots to a religious Judeo-Christian idea of a single god.
  • The belief that medicine of today is the single truth.
  • The belief that medicine is good.
  • Denial that medicine of today may be and is most likely to be wrong.
  • Denial of a long history of medical wrongs and lies.
  • Denial of inherently racist, misogynist, and classist nature of medicine.
  • Thebelief that parents have motives and intent to harm their children and that Law, Government, and Medicine will protect your children from you.

Any citizen is free to abstain from any kind of medical care, no matter how justified, proven, logical, approved, right, or effective. Medical care is a right, not an obligation.



Self-care. What it is not

Self-care. Wikipedia entry. 2016

Self-care is part of living. It used to be. We used to eat to live. We used to sleep to rest. We used to walk to get to a place. Not any longer. Today self-care is filed under “Medicine” category and marked as an ” intervention“. Apparently, we eat, sleep, and walk “to ensure [we] are physically and mentally fit”. We eat to be healthy. We sleep to be healthy. We walk for health. In a society where medicine is a state sponsored religion, health, the salvation nouveau, becomes the end goal.

Wikipedia elaborates that “in modern medicine, preventive medicine aligns most closely with self-care”. What it means for you, a citizen, is a state authorized interference into the most private and unique areas of your life – your sleep, your food, your inner self. You used to decide that you sleep as long as you need to rest. Today medicine develops acceptable standards of how much sleep you need. Medical authorities will control what food you can and must eat. Government goals include exactly how little walking for health is required.

Self-care today became internalized medicine. You became your own doctor who polices yourself for compliance with the latest medical recommendations.  Collectively we used to know how each of us feels, what we  should do from day today, and how we deal with everyday living. This knowledge has been eradicated and replaced with the most recent discoveries of British scientists.

A Bun in the Oven. How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization

In her most recent book  A Bun in the Oven:How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization Barbara Katz Rothman writes about the process of internalized medicalization as it relates to birth but may be applied to any area of lay knowledge and expertise.

“We used to think of medicalization as a process in which medical doctors claimed expertise over given areas of life. But it is no longer externalized, with the power to medicalize located in medical authorities – it’s moved inwards now. We do it to ourselves. It was the different knowledge that midwives and doctors had, and the very different power that they had to act on that knowledge… […] It is, to use a phrase Robbie Davis Floyd used, “authoritative knowledge” that midwifery is contesting, not just the authorities. Doctors no longer serve as gatekeepers to medical knowledge, pontifications, or research. When information was gathered in small groups of women teaching each other, when patients met outside medical settings to help each other in a nascent self-help movement, seeking information was a form of resistance to medical authority. No longer. It is now a form of compliance. Many of the “self-help” online forums are run by the medical and pharmaceutical industries themselves. Whether it is a direct-to-consumer advertising or the less direct marketing done online in patient groups, doctors – for good or for ill, and I could agree either – are no longer barriers between the medical industry and the consumer/patient.

The knowledge, the information, the “facts”, have moved into our own ways of thinking, and we have become our own medical authorities, living and experiencing our bodies in medical terms. (emphasis mine)

[…] Increasingly, people understand their own lived experiences in the language of biomedicine. In this world of medical management, in which every significant human experience, characteristic, emotion, strength, and failing is traced to its genetic and neurological “cause”, how can we think about midwifery and birth?”

How can we think about anything in this life avoiding the lens of medicine? How can we take care of ourselves without the interference of the medical system? How can we SELF-care without medicine instilling its dogma and practice into our daily lives? How can we rid ourselves of medical control?

Ivan Illich proposed that we deal with our human weakness, vulnerability, and uniqueness in a personal and autonomous way.