Don’t Stab Corpses

Imagine you visit in a foreign land, and are invited to attend a local funeral. At the funeral, you are shocked to see that the viewing line is also a stabbing line; each attendee stabs the corpse as he passes by.  Your host explains this custom: Back in the bad old days, in rare cases the dear departed at a funeral was not actually dead. Anticipating this possibility made loved ones anxious, as they did not have full closure on the death.  The spouse could not be as sure they could safely remarry, etc. People found they could rest easier if they each made very sure the dear departed was definitely dead.

So what do you think of this culture?  Do you nod approvingly at how wise custom can sometimes be, or do you run in horror at their willingness to sacrifice loved ones on the altar of certainty.

Me, I run.  Many have offered a similar argument against cryonics, that the small chance of life it offers is just not worth the added anxiety it induces in loved ones, who can’t as cleanly get on with their lives.  This seems horrid logic to me.

Consider another example: warships lost at sea. Usually, many sailors die, and most survivors are discovered within a month.  In rare cases, however, survivors might not be discovered for years.  Should navies adopt the policy of killing all sailors they discover three months after a ship is lost, so that loved ones can more cleanly get on with their lives?

[Note: There are many arguments for and against most interesting claims.  Short blog posts can usually only deal thoroughly with one such argument.]

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