Select a philosophy of life you find interesting, and connect its philosophical approach to concepts of health, illness, disability, quality of life, treatment, health care and life and death.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One particular philosophical system that is relevant to how one thinks about issues of health care, illness, quality of life, and death is Stoicism. An important piece of reading for understanding this point of view are the Discourses and Encheiridion of Epictetus.

A starting point for Stoic philosophy is dividing events into those under your control and those that you cannot control. While many external factors, including your genetic predispositions and random events can affect the course of your life and you cannot control external events, what is under your control is your emotional reaction to those events. For example, you cannot choose to be immortal or to remain young and healthy forever, as all people eventually age and die, but you can choose your emotional reaction to these truths. For the Stoics, one achieves happiness by only attempting to control those things within one's power and not getting upset about things out of one's control.

On health issues, this leads to the choice of moderation. The Stoics would consider smoking or drunk driving things one can control or avoid. On the other hand, as death is unavoidable, spending hours skimming the internet for every possible health fad which might prolong your life by a few minutes would seem silly to the Stoics, at it is disturbing your emotional tranquility in order to prevent something outside your control, namely human mortality.

Stoics were one of the few ancient philosophical systems that believed suicide to be a morally valid choice under certain circumstances, and would have favored physician assisted suicide, hospice care, and palliative care rather than prolongation of life in all possible circumstances.

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