Rarely do I think about death,
but soon we may have to.
A couple of scientists at Lancaster University claim to have hit upon a
method of predicting when a person will die.
They do this by analyzing the indothelial cells, which apparently are found
in capillaries, the body’s smallest blood cells.
I’ll have to take their word for
it, because indothelial is not a word that I’ve come across before. Nor, I might mention, have the editors of the
Oxford English Dictionary, since they haven’t bothered to include it in their
latest edition. Perhaps the professors
at Lancaster made
Anyway, I’m not going to take anyone’s
word for it, because booking an appointment to be examined for the purpose of knowing
when my number is going to come up is never going to be on my list of
priorities. Actually, I’d say that it’s absolutely
the last thing I would wish to do. And
anyway, all I have to do is wait, and soon enough it will indeed be the last
thing that I know.
Living with the knowledge of
one’s expiration date is unimaginable.
What kind of breakfast conversations would one have with one’s partner?
“Well I never! We’ve been invited to Buckingham Palace
for tea,” my wife mentions, after opening the post.
“Gosh,” I say. “When is it?”
“August the 10th, 2014.”
“Damn, I can’t make it. Just my luck – I’m due to kick the bucket on
“Oh I nearly forgot. Well, it was nice of them to ask.”
“You can go without me,” I say.
“Nah! It won’t be the same. And anyway, I’ll still be in mourning.”
If predictable death catches on,
insurance companies will surely go out of business, since they can hardly write
policies against death if they know when it’s going to happen. They could still insure against accidental
deaths, of course, but how many of us are so afraid of being hit by a bus, or
electrocuted by the toaster, that we feel the need to be insured against it?
Funeral parlours will greatly
benefit. Right now, with death so sudden
and random, they can’t plan anything. If
indothelial testing becomes popular they will be able to allocate resources –
hearses, coffins and pall-bearers – well in advance. Booking the undertaker years in advance
should surely qualify for a discount.
The National Health Service might
love it. Think how many elderly people
waiting for hip operations or other types of surgery could be taken off the waiting
list on the grounds that they are not going to survive long enough to enjoy the
results. Indothelial testing could turn
out to be the health system’s economic saviour.
I’m sure, if I gave the matter
some thought, I could come up with hundreds of other potential benefits. But, frankly, I don’t think it’s going to
catch on, so there’s no point.
We all enjoy surprises. Death as the biggest surprise of all is best
left that way.
Anyway, I’m still hoping scientists
will find a cure.