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'Death Is Not a Disease'

December 10, 1987

Kudos to Paterson for her insightful column. Unfortunately, the situation she describes pertains not just to the dying, but to the living as well. Witness the rise of the health-and-fitness movement which offers simplistic answers to complex questions. It has done much to shape current attitudes towards death and dying. And it encourages society to view as "unhealthy" people who being neither sick nor diseased don't conform to certain modes of behavior.

The situation described in Paterson's article, and America's growing obsession with "healthy" life styles suggests a dangerous trend. That trend is an increasing role of institutions in the running of our lives. This raises some serious questions, including what the real motives are behind that which is ostensibly "for our own good."

The institutional viewpoint by necessity reduces people to statistics, and our individual qualities are lost as we are made to fit supposedly appropriate models. What worries me is that many people seem so willing to conspire in bringing about the greater institutionalization of our lives. Perhaps without realizing it they are eroding not only our right to freedom of choice, but also our right to live--and die--as individuals.

STEPHEN JOHNSON

Los Angeles

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