Death conversation questions
Teachers will obviously need to use some judgement and sensitivity before using these questions.
- What rituals does your culture have regarding death?
- Some cultures celebrate death, e.g., "Day of the Dead" in Mexico and "Obon" in Japan. Does your culture celebrate the death of your ancestors?
- Are children "protected" from knowing about the death of people they know? What do you think is best?
- What is the legal status of euthanasia in your country?
- What is the legal status of doctor-assisted suicide in your country?
- Do you think that people have the right to commit suicide? Why/why not?
- If people have the right to commit suicide, should the State get involved or should the people be left alone to commit the act?
- Are you able to define a difference between euthanasia and murder?
- If you are disabled and cannot make your wishes known, should the doctor be able to decide on his own about euthanasia?
- Does your culture have a legal way to make your wishes known about life-saving medical treatment in the event that you cannot make your wishes known?
- How long should doctors keep someone alive who is brain dead?
- Should doctors disconnect someone who is in a "persistent vegetative state" if they are on life-support?
- How does the Hippocratic oath, with its Primum non nocere ("First, not to harm"), relate to euthanasia? How does it relate to people who are terminally ill?
- If we were to permit euthanasia this would save on the cost of health care and I would not be a financial burden to my family. What do you think about this justification?
- Have you thought about what you want your family to do when you die? Have you spoken to them about your death?
- Some people purchase their coffins/caskets beforehand and use them as furniture in the home. How do you feel about that? Would you do that so that your family would not have to spend so much money after your death?
- There are some imaginative things which you can arrange to happen to your remains after you die. For instance you can have them incorporated into a fireworks display, you can have your body freeze-dried rather than burned to reduce your carbon footprint, you can have your ashes made into a diamond ring or you can have an oak tree planted over them. Would you like to do any of these things? Which ones and why?
- Alternatively you could have your body (or just your head) frozen in a cryogenic chamber supposedly until science can cure your disease. It's expensive, though, and there are doubts about whether your memory would survive. Would you like to do this?
- The scientist and inventor, Ray Kurzweil, thinks he will be able to live a healthy life forever. How would you react to this possibility?
- Some people donate their organs for transplants or to research. What do you think of this? Have you considered the possibility of doing so?
- Some cultures believe that your personality is in your different organs. For example, the heart contains your personality so you should not donate it upon your death. What do you think about that?
- Different religions have differing beliefs about what happens to the person after death. What is your belief?
- Do you believe in the existence of ghosts/spirits of the dead that haunt us here on Earth?
- If so, why did they stay and not move on to where they are supposed to go?
- Have you ever seen a ghost or a spirit? When did it happen and what did happen? Were you frightened? Did the experience change what you believed about what happens after we die?