Friday, July 12, 2002
Session 5: Toward a "Richer Bioethics": Are We Our Bodies?
Discussion of "Whither Thou Goest" by Richard Selzer, M.D.
CHAIRMAN KASS: All right. Welcome, everybody. I hope people
This morning's opening session is on the subject of
"Toward a Richer Bioethics." I want to remind everybody that when we began, one
of our aspirations was to try to find discussion of bioethical topics that
didn't simply begin with the techniques, but began with the goods in human life
that we are eager to support and defend and those aspects of human life that are
touched by the new biomedical technologies.
And at the very first
meeting, we discussed a paper by Gil Meilaender, which was called "In search of
Wisdom: Bioethics and the Character of Human Life." And in that paper, Gil
identified four different themes that were somehow central to bioethics even
though very often they were somehow implicit in most of the conversations, even
if they were rarely thematically treated.
And the first of those issues,
themes that Gil mentioned was the theme of unity and identity of the human
being, and in that part of the paper, he called attention to two questions about
the unity and identity of the human being. One is the question of whole and
part. I mean, do we somehow understand ourselves as a unity or simply as an
aggregate of removable parts, whether it be genes or organs.
second question about the unity and identity of the human being had to do with
that aspect of us which is hard to simply identify with body, which Gil called
in that essay "spirit."
And I'll just read the last paragraph so that
we'll have at least an echo of that conversation. "It is fair to say, I think,
that in reflecting upon the duality of our nature" — and this was at the
conclusion of the discussion of body plus this extra or addition — "we have
traditionally given a kind of primacy to the living human body. Thus, uneasy as
we might be with the living body from which the person seems absent, we would be
very reluctant, indeed, to bury that body while its heart still beat.
any case, the problems of bioethics force us to ask what a human being really is
and in doing so, to reflect upon the unity and integrity of the human person. We
must think about the moral meaning of the living human body, whether it exists
simply as an interchangeable collection of parts, whether it exists merely as a
carrier for what really counts, the personal realm of mind or spirit, and
whether a living human being who lacks cognitive personal qualities is no longer
one of us or is simply the weakest and most needy one of us."
by Richard Selzer, a now retired surgeon who practiced for many years at Yale
and a marvelous essayist and short story writer — the short story "Whither Thou
Goest" is taken from a book of his called The Doctor Stories. It gives us an
opportunity to think about those large questions with some additional
complications, since we are now dealing not so much with the burial of a man
whose heart is still beating, but the burial of a man whose heart is still
beating somewhere else.
And I think maybe just begin with kind of an
open-ended question. Do people find this story bizarre, weird? I mean, what do
you think of this? Just to see where we are for openers.
PROF. SANDEL: Well, you said, Mr. Chairman, that this story
was a suitable reward for our good behavior. I would say it was a reward for our
DR. FOSTER: I wouldn't say that it was a bizarre story, but
I would say that a number of the elements in the surviving wife are in my own
And what I mean by that is in some places, the State
of Texas, for example, requires that one ask for organs for donations. It's
against the law not to do this. So physicians, we do this all the
And my own experience is that many families find as part of the
defense against the loss of a loved one is the fact that the loved one's organs
have brought life to others or sight or whatever. In some sense it says in this
tragic Samuel's death, it's a premature death, and it's what I would call a
theodicial death. That is to say, he was going to do a good deed. He was a good
Samaritan to fix a flat tire, but it was a trap, and he was killed.
that becomes either a secular or a religious theodicial problem, a theodocy, an
expression, a death that entails not just natural death, but the problems of
additional suffering because it's premature and happened to a good
Sometimes you get cynical about that. My residents oftentimes say
in the hospital, you know, the drug dealer who's got endocarditis lives and the
intern who's wonderful dies. You know, so they sort of think cynically that the
good die and the bad live, you know.
That's wrong. I mean, I don't think
that that's the case, but this was a theodicial death because it happened during
a good deed. And of course, if one is religious, then you know, you shake your
fist at God and say, "How did this happen?" whether it's Auschwitz or
But most people, in my experience, feel that there's a redeeming
component to the death, even if one continues to grieve or be angry, if life
comes from it.
I was just thinking about that this morning. Let me tell
you one quick, little story. I was called about a year and a half ago late one
night about the son of a family that I knew. He was a captain in the army. He
and his fiance and five other young Army officers had come to Washington to run
in a track and field meet.
On the way home, near Arkansas, near Little
Rock, the van rolled over, and he was killed and his fiance
Subsequently, there was, of course, great grief. This young man
was a West Point graduate, of great talent and future. His wife subsequently was
sent fairly shortly after this to Afghanistan, and she wrote me around Christmas
last year, and she kept talking about "my soldiers." She was in the earliest
contingent. They had no showers or anything else there.
And one of the
soldiers had committed suicide. She felt so one of her soldiers. She kept
calling them her soldiers. He got depressed being over there and killed
But in her letter, I don't have it with me, but I remember her
saying that her — I had said something about her compassion for her soldiers —
and she said her fiance's death had changed her life. She felt differently about
her soldiers because of the pain of her own loss here, and in that she said, "It
comforts me that," like Samuel, his organs had brought life to other
So I think this sense that this was just doctors asking to give
away a heart or something like that and they didn't really think about it, and
that there was no sense in the whole story, that she thought that was in some
sense — to me, she didn't say that she thought that was a good thing. I mean,
she's searching for the heart, and I'll comment about that a little bit later if
we have time.
But I think that Hannah's response is unusual in my
experience for those who are organ donors, and I find that to be the
I mean, I take care of the poor. I mean, we take care of the poor,
and that's true for poor families, as well as educated families, and so
So I don't think it's a bizarre story, but I think it's not in my
own experience a common thing where the donation of life is considered a plus
and partially doesn't ameliorate the grief, but it helps a little bit.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Mary Ann, was that —
PROF. GLENDON: When I first read this story, I really
thought it was weird. I thought it belonged in Dr. McHugh's
PROF. GLENDON: Then I started to think of it as a story
about grief, and I started to remember a lot of behaviors that I guess might be
considered weird, but they're sort of on the borderline between this story and a
normal grief reaction.
When somebody dies, if they're buried in a grave,
we very often visit the grave. Some people visit the grave more often than
others, especially right after a death.
One of my colleagues in Boston
visited the grave of her husband every day for over a year. That might seem a
little weird, but actually you could almost write a short story about it. Once
on New Year's Day, she met a guy who was visiting his wife's grave, and they
started to date. So it just sort of had a happy ending.
But here's this
woman Hannah who if she wanted to visit a grave, she has the problem of what's
in the grave. Where is my husband because he's been disaggregated?
I think that produced part of the confusion there. Then that led me to think
about the title of the collection, Doctor Stories, and to think that there's a
way in which this story is about doctors as well as about Hannah.
begins with this rather abrupt statement, "brain dead," and she's in shock.
She's trying to process that. What does that mean? The brain is dead. Is he
dead? I mean, she has to get through that.
And then she no sooner gets
through that and then she gets this demand for the harvesting of the
And, Dan, unlike many people who think this out well in advance
and do their families the favor of letting the families know what they want, she
has to make this decision under less than optimal circumstances, and I think
maybe that's why she doesn't feel so comfortable about it.
So then she
says, "Doctors" — here's the one sentence I underlined — "Doctors, they simply
do what they want to anyway without really thinking."
She gave her
consent under circumstances when she really didn't think, and she hadn't thought
about it ahead. Her husband hadn't thought about it ahead. So she didn't really
know how she was going to feel afterwards.
She made a decision that
seemed for all of the reasons you gave like the rational decision, but she
didn't understand how she was going to feel about this disaggregation of her
husband, and I think the behavior here is behavior that's something like
visiting a grave when you're not sure where the grave is.
DR. FOSTER: I laughed. I said that we started off with the
birthmark, and that was sort of an attack on the scientists. It was sort of
crazy scientists, and then we end up with an attack on the doctors, and I feel
like a double whammy, you know, because I've tried to occupy both of those
CHAIRMAN KASS: Well, I mean, actually let me say a word.
Mary Ann, I would add to your summary of that first conversation what is, I
think, absolutely crucial. The physician says more explicitly what Dan sort of
implies is in the active of organ donation. The doctor says, "That's what we
call it, harvesting, when we take the organs. It's for a good cause. That way
your husband will live on. He will not really have died."
And she says,
"Dead is dead."
And that first view of hers is subject to reconsideration
not least because the suggestion has been planted there, I mean, by the
physician, and I get part of the weight of the story is is dead dead when the
vital parts of the deceased are active, but active somewhere else, and I think
that's part of what's set up here.
Gil, I think I had —
PROF. MEILAENDER: Yeah. Well, I was going to say that I
don't think I find the story bizarre particularly, and although I haven't paid a
lot of attention to the question really, and I don't deal with patients, I mean,
I know that there's stuff in the literature about the kind of psychological
dimension that organ donation involves for families and survivors and the kind
of weird sense of connection that they have, and so forth.
So that didn't
strike me as particularly strange, but what I found myself thinking about and
unable really to answer in a way was what I thought about the woman or what I'd
say to her if she asked me, you know, "Should I keep writing these letters
badgering this guy?" and so forth.
I mean, at one level — well, at one
level, I do think it's a little strange. At one level I think she's making a
kind of sort of category mistake. I mean, I don't think her husband does live on
just because an organ of his is beating in someone else's body.
other hand, you know, the body, the living body anyway and even in some ways the
dead body immediately after death, is still the locus of personal presence. It's
the only place where we know the human being.
And I guess I find myself
in the position of thinking that she's kind of deluded and wrong, but
understandably so, and I might feel the same way because there is something
about the body that carries that personal presence.
So I couldn't figure
out really what I might say to her. She seems to me to be wrong, and yet I'd be
very reluctant to try to talk her into that fact, that she was wrong, and so
it's just puzzling in that way to me.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Paul.
DR. McHUGH: Well, I had a number of responses to it, and you
could go on a long time perhaps about it, but first of all, just to begin it as
a doctor's story, as Dan has spoken from his experience, doctors' experiences in
relationship to these events vary with the kinds of patients they are taking
I take care of patients who are terminal with chronic illnesses,
and what happens often in the last few weeks is that the transplant people start
milling around wondering when I'm going to say, "That's it."
And I and my
residents begin to feel that there is a little vulture quality to this. Now, I
know they're doing it for the best reasons, and of course I understand why they
are, but since my tie is to that person who's in a stupor, a comatose state, and
that's not where they are, you feel.
So doctors are not of all one mind
and all of one experience. They know the conflict here. And, in fact, when I
speak to these others and say, you know, "You're beginning to get a little
"vulturoid," they disappear for a while. You can kind of shoo them away for a
while because they do understand, and they're trying to do some good.
it's up to us, all of us, to remind them of what's happening with a particular
person. And sometimes it's the family, and in this situation it's the wife who
in some way is saying that.
The second point is this story is a very
interesting story about the kind of grief that you'd get with a sudden death,
again, as Dan said, of somebody youthful and very unexpected. It's one of the
worst griefs that we experience.
There's only one grief that's a step
worse than this, and that's a mother who loses suddenly a child between, you
know, the ages of about two to age 18. That's a terrible grief, and it
And in this case, you know, she's talking about a three-year
period in which the grief is going on, and that's not unusual. That's a stretch,
but it's not unusual.
And what she has here, in fact, if you take it from
a slightly weird quality, she has this nostalgic grief that you'll see amongst
patients of this sort, who will wander back, will always want to wander back to
where they were with the person and where they walked, and they'll come and say
to you, "You know, what's the matter with me?"
I even have patients sort
of like this who come to me and say, "You know, I want to see her. I'm very
depressed," and I find out that they've had such a grief or such a death. They
don't come in immediately and say that. They come in and say they're depressed.
And they say, "Well, my friends tell me I should be over this."
always say, "You have poor friends. Get better friends who can really
understand. Yeah, get better friends who can understand what you're going
And so at that level this story was interesting to me, too. At
the level of the doctor, the level of the grief issues, and the weirdness of it,
but the kind of comfort that she got.
But, you know, there is, of course,
a very deeper issue here that we should really talk to people like Leon and Dan
about in the sense that this is deeply alliterative to the Hebrew Bible. After
all, it begins with the title, "Whither Goest Thou," "Whither Thou
The woman's name is Hannah, the mother of Samuel. It's talking
about gather in the wheat and the harvest, and of course, that made me think in
terms of my ongoing conversations with my Jewish friends who talk to me about
the Jewish-Christian differences over the issue of the body and the soul, and
the idea at least in the Hebrew Bible about instead of thinking of an incarnate
soul, they want to talk about an animated body. There may be no being apart from
the body, and therefore, the values were expressed in terms of life as we know
it in the body on this earth. Okay?
And that was the reflections that I
began to have about this, and so the chase therefore here over that one — she
doesn't chase the corneas. She says she doesn't go for the corneas or the
kidneys and all because maybe you can't quite see them.
On the other
hand, she goes for the animated portion, and I thought that was deeply spiritual
and deeply meaningful for us as we talk about the deep traditions of our
CHAIRMAN KASS: Unless someone wants to respond directly, I
have Alfonso and then Michael.
DR. GOMEZ-LOBO: I think in the end there's going to be a lot
of convergence around the table, but let me throw my little wrench in
After I read the story I felt critical of Hannah, and I know this
is an unfair criticism because I haven't experienced the loss of a loved one
who's really close to me in years, and I'm an organ donor. I believe firmly in
that. I have it on my driver's license.
But here were my thoughts. My
real question was: is it really her husband's heart that is beating in this
other man's chest?
And my inclination is to say no. Why? Well, I've spent
so many years making a living reading and writing on Aristotle, and Aristotle
has this very firm view that an organ has life and has meaning as part of a
whole. The idea, say, that you can consider the brain as an independent organ,
of course, for Aristotle would be totally inconceivable.
here I think that one would have to say that insofar as that heart is beating in
someone else's chest, it's already part of this other person.
Now, I can
certainly understand this will to keep a loved one within one's reach, but I
also think there's a very important human lesson in the idea of letting go, in
coming to a point where you just give up or, well, literally let go what you are
And this is something I reflected quite a bit with some of
the examples that would justify cloning back at it, and one of the arguments
given by a philosopher that I greatly respect was that cloning might be
justifiable if a family loses a child and then, you know, clones the child to
have another one like that one.
And I really thought that was pretty
awful because it was an example of not letting go. I mean, if you come to a
point where you lose someone, I guess that part of one's own healing has to be
Now, Hannah, of course, lets go at the end of the story, but I
would have been more inclined to side with Ivy, her friend, and say, "Look. This
whole thing for the moment is quite crazy."
CHAIRMAN KASS: Could I, Alfonso, maybe?
Is there not
some reason why letting go might be more difficult under these circumstances? I
mean, you have the contrast in the story between her husband, Samuel's dream —
sorry — narration of how as a boy he followed around looking for his father,
and at the end, the language is when it finally passed he felt relief and
disappointment, relief because at last he had laid to rest his father's ghost,
disappointment because the wild possibility no longer exited.
She has a
different reaction at the end. It's not relief and disappointment, but what if
the body is — Mary Ann said the question is who is in this grave, especially if
the body whole hasn't — at least there's reason for thinking that he's not all
Now, what would you say?
Let me just — in a way, the
question, and she puts it this way, she doesn't really know whether she's a wife
or a widow in some sense because she hasn't been able to — there's some nagging
question, which I don't think is simply craziness. It has something to do with
the ability to part with a whole body, especially when the doctor has planted
the suggestion, you know, your husband won't be dead. He's still alive in other
What do you say to this?
DR. GOMEZ-LOBO: First, I wouldn't doubt for a second that
this may be very difficult, and I have no warranty how I would behave if this
happened to me. I'm sure this is very difficult.
On the other hand, those
of use who have had experience with Spaniards, Spaniards can be very brutal, and
sometimes it's wonderful because they put you against the wall and force you to
face it. I think a Spaniard would have said to her, "Vamos, chica. Eres un
vuida." Come on. You are a widow.
And the reason for this is because I
think there's a finality in death even in the case of transplants. I just don't
think that in any reasonable sense her husband continues to live. I don't think
I think it's much more healthy to accept that he's dead.
CHAIRMAN KASS: And just one last thing. When the bodies are
missing, the most recent example we had was after September 11th, and the search
for the bodies and the search for the bodies and the search for any even tiny
shred of evidence as an absolutely indispensable condition even of the
possibility of letting go or of accepting death.
And she said herself,
she would go — you know, if he were missing in action, she'd go to Vietnam or
whatever. Is that also not facing the truth?
DR. GOMEZ-LOBO: No. On the contrary, I think there's
something deeply human in having the direct experience of something. This
reminds me of something we've discussed here about why one mourns the death of a
baby so much. Well, because one has had her in one's arms.
And I think
that laying someone to rest in a grave has this value of one's seeing the person
finally put to rest, whereas not recovering the body, I think, is terrible
because it gives the lingering impression that the person could be alive,
particularly in the case of disappearances like that. You still could have the
hope, say, in the case of prisoners of war or people missing in action, that the
person may be alive, may be in a prison somewhere.
So it's not something
different. I would say it's part of the experience.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Michael.
PROF. SANDEL: I found this a bizarre story, and I found the
woman's quest odd and lacking in resonance.
I think she was
misidentifying though a properly placed concern. The real issue this raises, as
I understand it, is whether and how human life and identity are embodied. And so
the woman in the story had an intuition that the identity of her husband is
embodied, situated in the world.
Her mistake was to identify his
embodiment with his organs. Gil, I think, was right to speak of the locus of the
human presence, but I think it's a mistake, and it was this woman's mistake, to
assume that the only locus of human presence is in the organs. I think it's an
overly narrow, excessively biologistic understanding of embodiment, the
embodiment that constitutes the human situation.
So, for example, if she
were writing letters not to the recipient of the heart, but instead to the
occupant of the house that she and her husband lived in and raised their family
in, that would have resonance, if she were begging to see that house, to enter
the house where they had dwelled.
That would be, I think, more resonant
because it would better capture the locus of human presence. It would better
gesture toward on aspect of their embodied human situation. It might be a house.
It might be a village. It might be a place where they went on vacation or a
beach where they had walked.
All of these, the impulse to return and to
give expression to what Paul called the "nostalgic grief," would be less bizarre
in any of those settings, I think, than to try to seek out the organ.
the moral of the story, the broader moral of the story, I think, is right, that
the human situation is essentially embodied, but the particular way she tried to
grope to express this embodiment was bizarre, misplaced, overly
I think it would be more wrenching in many cases to sell the
house than to donate the heart.
CHAIRMAN KASS: To this?
PROF. MEILAENDER: Yes. I just wanted to ask: but suppose the
body had been missing. You know, that's obviously not this story. I understand
PROF. SANDEL: You mean the whole body.
PROF. MEILAENDER: Yes. Would it seem less apropos of her to
go in search of the body than to go on to visit the house?
PROF. SANDEL: I would find it less odd than what she did,
yes. I would find that less odd.
PROF. MEILAENDER: Well, and maybe if that were the case, it
would make even more sense to go look for the body than to go visit the
PROF. SANDEL: That depends. I'm not sure. Not
PROF. MEILAENDER: I mean obviously a life is a complex
interaction of nature and history, you know, body and the lived history of the
body, buy I'm not sure I want to buy that overly biologistic description because
I don't think the problem is that she's looking for the body rather than, you
know, the house or the seashore or something like that.
The real problem
is whether it's his body that she's looking for. I mean, I think that's really
the underlying issue.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Can I also interject something to draw you
I mean, if one reads and rereads, one would pick up all
kinds of little clues of this sort, but let me give you one passage from which
it actually gets there, puts your ear to the chest.
"Oh, it was Samuel's
heart all right. She knew the minute she heard it. She could have picked it out
of a thousand. It wasn't true you couldn't tell one heart from another by the
sound of it. This one was Sam's. Hadn't she listened to it just this way often
enough? When they were lying in bed, hadn't she listened with her head on his
chest just this way and heard it slow down after they had made love? It was like
a little secret that she knew about his body, and it always made her smile to
think of the effect she had on him."
And she also claims earlier — I'm
not saying that this is correct, but this is not a biologistic sense of that,
but it has a special marital meaning as the heart in poetry always
When she says also, "It was my heart." She speaks about it in the
proprietary sense, that it hurts to donate, but it's some other way — I think
she's also saying his heart belonged to hear in a nonbiological sense, but in a
PROF. SANDEL: Well, I would have two reactions to that.
First, I didn't find that a moving passage. I thought it was kind of treacle,
overreaching sentimentality on the part of the author to strain to make
precisely this case.
And the proof of that is that it only works given
the heavily sentimentalized metaphor of the heart. Imagine reading that passage
if she were in search of the kidney.
CHAIRMAN KASS: It couldn't be done with the kidney. The
kidney doesn't move.
Sorry. I'm indulging myself. Who — Rebecca, Bill,
and Janet, I think, is what I have.
PROF. DRESSER: One thing interesting about this is it's
really not a doctor's story. It's a story about a patient and a member of a
patient's family. So I don't know if it's a typical doctor's eye view of the
world. Everything is about me, or I don't mean to be critical, but it really was
about these two individuals who had a brief contact with the medical system and
now they're kind of left on their own and how do they handle these things that
But what I was interested in was her sense that she was
owed an obligation by this recipient of the heart. It was her heart to give. I
think it's referred to as her property, and she wants something in
Does he owe that to her? He really has, you know, a sense of
privacy, I think, that's being violated. And I was thinking about how
uncomfortable it must be in some ways to receive this, especially this special
organ, from someone you don't know. It's this incredible intimacy, and on the
other hand, it's a total stranger. So you almost don't want to let that person
in because it seems very threatening in a way.
And so he was trying to
keep her away, this person named Pope, and I'm not sure if that had
But so she goes into his medical records to find out where
he is and then starts badgering him, and she wanted something in return. And I
was thinking about this in relationship to this issue of paying for organs. I
mean, she wanted some in kind compensation.
And is that somehow more
justifiable, ethical for her to feel that kind of entitlement than it would be
for her to say, "Well, you should" — maybe she's lost a major source of income.
So the recipient should help her out in that way.
What were the ethics of
her behavior toward him?
And also the transplant system in some
paternalistic way imposes this rule that the donor's family and the recipient
should not know each other, and I believe sometimes there's a time limit and
then they can get in touch, and sometimes they don't want to disclose identity
And that's imposed based on the judgment that, well, that's
better for everybody if we have this rule. And is it really better? It wasn't
better for Hannah, but it might have been better for Mr. Pope. I don't know how
he feels after this incident, whether he feels a sense of relief or a sense of
giving that maybe made him feel better. I don't know, but those were the
thoughts this triggered in me.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Bill Hurlbut and then Janet.
DR. HURLBUT: I want to pick back up on what Leon was saying
a minute ago. There are a few little clues in this story that — I don't mean to
make this more abstruse than it needs to be, but there are things that stand
There's a moment where it says, "Besides, she wanted the time to
think, to prepare herself like a bride."
And then when she's listening to
the chest, it says, after what Leon had read, it says, "And now it was no longer
sound that entered and occupied her, but blood that flowed from one to the
other, her own blood driven by the heart that lay just beneath the breast." And
in a sense she's born through this.
I wonder if maybe there's a meaning
in this story that is below what we've been discussing thus far, which is sort
of the obvious of individual discontinuity, if maybe this isn't a reference to
the deeper question of generation and the deep mystery of material being — of
seeds, of gleaning.
In a sense, it's obviously drawn from the Book of
Ruth, which is a profound story in the Bible because it's in continuity with the
lineage of David and to a Christian, that means the lineage of Jesus.
it's obviously about Ruth cleaving toward Israel instead of the Maobites, and a
particular perspective on the profound meaning of what life is.
sense it seems to me this might be a story about grief and grace and material
existence, where within this mystery of death there are these seeds where Ruth
went forward with life and raised up children to her deceased husband, and in
this story she receives her life back and goes forward.
She feels the
blood flowing from one to the other, and blood in the biblical tradition is
life, continuity, and the key might be that where it says that she lay on his
naked torso, the man, and that the chest upon which she had laid her head was a
field of golden wheat in which at this time it had been given her to go
gleaning, another reference to seeds.
I just throw that out as another
layer of the meaning of embodiment.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you.
Janet, go ahead. I'll hold
DR. ROWLEY: Well, I don't have any great words of wisdom. I
have to say that when I read the story, I did think it was rather odd. I guess
my only comment for the discussion around the table is that I think we're being
too judgmental, and it certainly is extremely unusual in terms of both her
request and her need for closure and for closure to come in this particular
On the other hand, the story indicates that at the end and after
being able to listen to her husband's heart, she did achieve closure, and so
that whether one wants to expand this to a larger context that the end justifies
the means, I'm not sure, but at least as the story plays out, there is a good
CHAIRMAN KASS: Dan.
DR. FOSTER: I think there are some redeeming themes in the
story, if I were going to teach it, and I'm not. But one of the things that
struck me as important here was Mr. Pope. He illustrates the capacity for the
human heart and mind to change.
At one point he says to her, "Goddamit,
leave me alone or I'm going to call the police," and then he changes and invites
her to come. It's a model; I think it is a model that in most humans there is a
kindness gene. it may be turned off; it may be inactive, but it can be turned
I mean, I think Thomas Aquinas would have said that that's natural
and intrinsic to the human character. In some sense to me one of the most
important things here was Mr. Pope. He feels her pain, and he finally invites
her to come, and that is humanity at the highest level.
I mean, her pleas
were sort of a transcription factor for his kindness gene, and he brings her in.
He has a heart to changes. She probably thinks it's because it's Samuel's heart,
but it's his heart, I mean, his mind and soul that changes, and that's an
And, secondly, at the end it moves more from kindness
to a kind of love, not an erotic or romantic love, although they were very
careful to worry about the wife being away, and there was the human need to
touch. I mean, I don't want to talk about that, but people want to be touched, I
mean, when they're wounded and so forth, and her head on his chest and his arms
around her illustrate this need.
But when she goes to leave, something
has happened to him more. He has a kind of live. He says, "Hannah, will you want
to come again?"
And the author says how soft and low his voice. Now, I
believe — I don't mean to imply, as I say, any kind of an attachment to Hannah,
I mean, in the sense, but his kindness and seeing her response to that moves him
to more kindness and a sort of love. It's a sense the noncontingent love of
agape. He wants to care for her and to do for her what is best.
one sense it's sort of a like for like. I mean, he gives love, and then he
receives love. That was sort of Kierkegaard's like for like or Ralph Waldo
Emerson said, you know, when one does a kind deed to another, one is
instantaneously enlarged. I'm paraphrasing. He didn't say it exactly that
And when one is demeaning to another, one's soul essentially shrinks
instantly, you see. So it's sort of touching to me to see Mr. Pope here, and in
one sense he is not bizarre. I mean he is human at the highest level in my view,
and that's one of the most redeeming things about it.
PROF. MEILAENDER: Can I just ask one question?
DR. FOSTER: Ask any question you want.
PROF. MEILAENDER: This is a terrible question to ask, in a
way, but is it really that Mr. Pope changes or is it just that Mrs. Pope goes
DR. FOSTER: Well, I don't know if you want me to answer
that. I don't know. I mean, it's just a story. It's just a story. I mean, it's a
surgeon who writes a story, and he's a surgeon who doesn't like doctors, and so
he puts this — I mean, I don't know how you could say that, but when you come
to a story, one brings into it what one sees, and that's what I
Janet says we shouldn't be judgmental. I don't think we ought to be
so judgmental. I think it's okay to say that she's bizarre. I think she was
bizarre, but I mean, we wouldn't say that publicly to her.
But it's also
judgmental to assume that when somebody does good that it's for some ulterior
motive, that his wife has gone away, Gil. I mean, I think that is, if that's
what you're saying, that that's a judgmental —
PROF. MEILAENDER: I just mean that I think it was Mrs. Pope
really who said, you know, "Goddamit, I'll call the police." I think that was
the real voice behind that letter.
DR. FOSTER: I see. Well, that may be.
I want to make
one other point before the session is over, but I don't want to —
CHAIRMAN KASS: I'll put you back on the list. Do you want to
do it —
DR. FOSTER: No, I don't want to do it now, but I want to
come back to the essential question of what this heart means, and what the self
and body is just from the practical experience of one who has taken care of the
dying and seen it many, many, many times. I do want to make a comment there.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Frank.
DR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I just interpreted that quite
differently, and I don't think it's a matter of my putting my judgment you know,
about these characters into the story. I would say this has got to be the
intention of the author.
There is a sexual element that runs through the
whole story that I think is really clear, and it spring, I guess, from the
following: that the one thing that strikes me as implausible about the story is
that when you're 33 — Hannah is supposed to be 33 — people at age 33 do not
think about their bodies. People start thinking about their bodies when things
start going wrong, except in one circumstances: when they feel, you know, erotic
attachment, and then you suddenly realize that you're not just this healthy,
disembodied person, but you're actually got organs and, you know, touching and
physical contact is important.
And it does seem to me that there is, you
know, a clear sexual byplay going on in the whole relationship of her to the
heart and to Mr. Pope, and I think that's absolutely right, that it was Mrs.
Pope, you know, that wanted to keep him away, and that's why she was the one
that answered initially, and he, you know, invites her back and wants to know,
you know, whether she would like to see him again.
And so I think that
the motives here are less this kind of pure Christian love. I mean, I really do
think there's a kind of eroticism that, you know, kind of runs through the whole
thing that may explain some of her loss and also the metaphor about the
harvesting of the wheat and regeneration.
I mean, you know, that's the
point of sex, right? Is to somehow replace, you know, the human race, and I
would think that in those circumstances there's this curious mixture of this
sexual compensation for death because reproduction in a way insures that we go
Just one other point. I do think that this preoccupation with the
bodies of the dead is a kind of cultural thing. This is something that Paul had
mentioned. I just throw in my own anecdote.
You know, they cremate
everybody in Asia, and so when you go to visit the grave, there's no pretense
that that's, you know, somehow the person there.
My father, who was born
in the United States and really grew up very American, happened to pass away in
Japan when he was on a tourist visit there, and so he was cremated in Japan, and
you know, I flew out there, and had to go through the ceremony that I just found
horrifying, but apparently all Japanese do it, which is that once you come out
of the crematorium, the family members then actually then they spread the ashes
out, and then each family member is required to, you know, take some of the
ashes and deposit it in the air, not all of them, but some of them.
you know, I hadn't been expecting this. I didn't like going through it. You
know, but in reflecting on why this custom exists, you know, it seems to me it's
probably to tell the family members: look. This is all that's left. That's all
that's left, and you know, in a way, get over it. You know, it is precisely that
And you don't even put all of the ashes in. You just put, you
know, some of them. I don't know. They throw the rest of them away, and so it is
a kind of, you know, I guess, cultural recognition that the person is not, you
know, in whatever it is that's left over that's put into the grave. It's, you
know, the family members, the spirit that has departed and is now somewhere
And so I guess I was a little bit Alfonso and Michael in finding
that this is — you know, that particular emphasis on the body and, in
particular, that organ was a little bit — I found it something not terribly
CHAIRMAN KASS: Mary Ann.
PROF. GLENDON: Well, I wanted to say something about Mrs.
Pope, too. The marital imagery in relation to the heart gets very complicated
here. There's a way in which Hannah thinks that this heart is hers, but in the
correspondence, Mrs. Inez Pope quickly shifts to being Mrs. Henry Pope,
asserting her unity with the current possessor of the heart.
And I do
agree with Frank and Gil that there is a sexual rivalry, a kind of a contest
going on over this man and the heart.
The other thing I wanted to point
out because it's relevant to our discussion yesterday is this sentence, "You,
Mr. Pope, got the heart or, more exactly, my heart as under the law I had become
the owner of my husband's entire body at the time he became brain
Well, there's a certain way in which you could find legal cases
about dead bodies that would support that assertion, but many of the courts are
careful to make a nuanced distinction that just because you have, as next of
kin, you have the right to dispose of a body or to make certain decisions about
the disposal of the body, that doesn't mean that you are the owner of the body
or that a human body can be property.
So this idea of property and bodies
that's so pervasive in our thinking even creeps into this story, but it's not
necessary to the legal analysis of one's rights, and you see, but once you
propertize things, it's very easy to slide from I own into I have the right to
do whatever I want with. And that's not obviously necessary, but it's a common
And we see in this painful case of Ted Williams, here we have
apparently a son who has made a living and supports memorabilia related to his
father, wanting to continue the memorabilia business with the DNA of his father,
and you have it, of course, brought into the courts in the way everything is,
but I hope it's not going to be decided over who owns Ted Williams' body, but
rather who has the right to make certain decisions.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Robby.
PROF. GEORGE: The Bible in the Book of Genesis talks right
in the creation narrative about the man and the woman becoming of one flesh, and
this concept of marriage as a one flesh unity of two persons, that two persons
become one. The man and the woman, the husband and wife become one is carried on
really throughout the Bible and also in less developed form in the classical
tradition, both in the Greek philosophers and in the Roman jurists, although
that claim especially with respect to the Greek philosophers is somewhat
The idea that two could become one in this way, that there
would be a unity of bodily — unity that marriage is, in some fundamental sense
a bodily unity, makes sense only if persons, whatever else they are, are their
bodies rather than something abstracted from the body which occupies or is
somehow mysteriously associated with the body, like a consciousness inhabiting
the body or even a spirit inhabiting a body, but detachable from it in the
In the broader tradition in the West, embodied both
in the cannon law of the church and in the civil law what marriage is is not
simply an emotional unity of two persons which is somehow enhanced by their
bodily association or by the sexual dimension of their marital relationship, but
what marriage is is a bodily union, the sexual dimension of marriage, sexual
union being the biological matrix of a more comprehensive union of the persons
as a whole, that is, in their biological, emotional, dispositional, even
And in any human activity, engaging any activity
has an experiential component, but the activity itself is more than simply the
experience of the activity, and this is true of marriage or anything else. And
we can understand that if we use Michael Sandel's late colleague's, Robert
Nozick's thought experiment about an experience machine. Think of some activity,
hitting 70 home runs, for example, in a season or hitting home runs.
would be possible to imagine a machine or a pill that would give you the
experience of hitting home runs, but you wouldn't actually be doing anything.
Imagine yourself as no success being a brain floating in a tank having the
experience of writing the great novel or of hitting home runs or of marriage,
but not actually doing anything.
So that while the experience of human
activity is an aspect of the activity itself, the activity isn't reducible just
to the experience, and it would be odd and mistaken to want just the experience
without the activity.
And as I was reading this story, it struck me that
Mrs. Owen is interested, among other things — and I agree with Janet that she's
interested in closure — she's interested in getting together with Mr. Pope to
have an experience that she had had before. Now, this is not the experience of
sexuality. I don't think that there's an erotic idea of a relationship here
between the two.
But in the language that Leon quoted, it seems clear to
me that she would like to have the experience that she had with her husband in
their most intimate moments of marital unity, that experience of lying on his
chest and hearing that heartbeat, as it did in those moments after sexual
And while I confess that like so many of you, I was struck on
reading this story that this behavior and desire on her part was very bizarre,
on reflection I don't find it out of the realm of possibility for understanding
or resonating with the use of Michael's term. I did feel some resonance as I
could understand what she was after.
However, the reality is, the truth
is that that experience which could be replicated of hearing that heartbeat,
feeling — at one point she says, "Thus she lay until her ear and the chest of
the man had fused into a single bridge of flesh," one flesh unit, "a single
bridge of flesh across which marched one after another in cadence the parade of
that mighty heart."
She's getting some of the experience that she had
with her husband, but of course, she can't have the reality. The experience is
not the reality. She knows that in the end. She's not interested in coming back,
even though Mr. Pope has invited her if she wishes to do it again.
understands now fully the distinction between the two, but I think it was that
powerful experience that was the particular thing that she was here after.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Comment to that?
Well, let me put
myself on the list unless I've missed someone who has been waiting.
would grant that the behavior is odd, and I would also grant that in some way
one should face the facts, all of that. But the more I read it and think about
it, the more Selzer has, I think, seen rather deeply into a certain kind of
disquiet for both donors — of the deceased donor we don't speak — but the
surviving spouses of donors and the recipients that come from treating this act
especially with the heart, I think, as merely a biologistic
And the dream that she has of the two men lying side by side
with empty chest cavities and the life of the one being moved to the other, the
doctor says it's just the respirator keeping him alive, but after all, there
still is the beating heart which is symbolically moved from the living to the
The medical picture of that has a kind of symbolic
reality, even if it isn't the ultimate truth.
And when she begins by
saying, "Dead is dead," but then begins to wonder partly through the experience
of the butcher, then the discussion about the resurrection of the flesh, and the
question is what would be resurrected, and then ultimately with this dream that
comes after the storm and the rain, with the kind of revelatory moment, there's
something about it that makes me say she's actually closer to some truth about
the experience of transplantation.
You have to block out certain kinds of
things that happen on heart transplantation in order to treat it simply in terms
of its wonderful practical result. There are certain kinds of things that have
to be blocked to the side.
And Renee Fox and Judith Swazey have written
about transplant and other people have actually called attention to these deep
emotional and psychological things that are part of the picture but tend to be
ignored if one is just looking at the functional aspect of it. That would be the
And, therefore, I sort of, although this is bizarre, there's
something about her quest that makes sense to me. There's something about the
quest symbolically, not as a deed. That would be the first point.
then it seems to me something really marvelous happens at the end, and here I
would pick up with what Dan says. When she comes — Henry Pope has out of a kind
of act of sympathy yielded to this request. It's necessary that Mrs. Pope be
away, but he's yielded to it, but he doesn't like it at the
And the language is the kind of language almost of a
prostitute. "It's your show. How do you want me? I suppose you want this off."
That's the kind of language.
He's uncomfortable by this. "Where's your
stethoscope?" All of that.
Something happens to him in the very end here,
and the question is: what is that? And could one say that the recipient, though
he didn't know it himself, also needed this?
The most astonishing thing
to me is at the end that his arm is around her, and that she was trembling. Now,
is that an act of Christian charity or has he somehow momentarily become
husband-like to her as a result of this sort of one flesh union, not of sexual
concourse; the union of his heart driving her blood is the way the language is
Now, it's a story. There's a certain poetic license here, but the
question is: is there something in the act of the exchange of organs, wonderful
that it is, wonderful that it is, but that involves an overlooking of what it
means to be in your own body in which one needs finally to acknowledge in order
to really make the experience whole?
I'm not sure I'm putting this very
well, but I think in some way maybe both of them get a kind of closure as a
result of this thing.
I wonder, Dan. This is partly to follow up on your
thoughts about his wonderful conduct, but a transformation that he didn't
expect. If you want to comment or maybe you want to wait.
DR. FOSTER: No, I mean, I think you and I both agree that
the most profound thing that happened, I focused on Mr. Pope primarily. I think
she got closure, too, and you want to make it a mutual thing. I want to look at
it in a higher level of not as a husband that you and Bill sort of talked about,
but at a higher level of love.
But I do think that that's a central point
CHAIRMAN KASS: Please, Rebecca and then Gil.
PROF. DRESSER: I just wondered. Does this make you think
that the general rule that recipients should not know donors and donors'
families, that it's wrong? I mean should we change it?
CHAIRMAN KASS: You know, there's perfectly good reason for
it, and in a certain way you could — the reason for the rule, the reason for
the rule I would say is a testimony to the truth of what I've just said. Not
that you should break the rule necessarily, but the fact that this is a kind of
intimate transaction in which people probably are better off not being reminded
of the possible confusion, and that one should leave it as a gift of life, but
without necessarily getting involved with the giver in whose embodied life you
are now sharing in some way.
I mean, I don't know. It would be an
interesting question. If your spouse had a heart transplant and you would be
first, second, fifth, and tenth thing to say is how grateful one is that the
spouse is still alive. Is it true as Alfonso said before that once you put the
foreign organ in here, it is now in the integrated whole which is governed by
the anima and so, therefore, it's no longer the part where it came from, or
would it be simply craziness to say, "I have a relation. There's something of
someone else's here"? Not that it would produce jealousy, not even that it would
produce curiosity. Those things probably should be resisted, but the question
is: are these parts simply alienable as mechanical parts might be or is there
something here — has Selzer put his finger on something that is generally out
of sight and yet very important?
Gil, do you want to?
DR. FOSTER: Let me just respond to one thing.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Please.
DR. FOSTER: There's one thing I haven't mentioned because
the interpretation that I see is what I like there, but Mr. Pope may also have
been informed by his surgeon, by his transplant surgeon, that this heart is not
going to last forever. They don't last very long because you get disease and so
forth. This is not like a kidney where you can go 35 years or something. It's
not going to last all that long.
So part of his transformation to
sympathy and so forth could have been — I don't know this. I mean, it's just a
story — but if he had been informed, he might have thought also — I mean, the
transcription factor for his kindness gene might be that my wife is going to
have to go through the same thing, and I hope that there's someone who will be
for her what I have been for him — I mean for Hazel.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Gil?
PROF. MEILAENDER: Yeah, I just want to press a little bit on
the implications of your comment, Leon, with which I do not particularly
disagree. I mean, you recall I said I didn't find it bizarre in my original
comment. I thought there was something understandable.
But let's take
seriously the sense that the act of giving the heart requires the various
participants as it were to try to bracket some fundamental human responses
involved in almost alienating oneself from one's own bodily presence. Might one
not conclude from that that it's a bad idea to do this?
You know, insofar
as it requires the suppression of a kind of fundamental human response that we
should not encourage someone to do that?
I mean, I'm in considerable
sympathy with your kind of take on it, but we might want to think about what the
implications of that are.
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: Can I pick up on that?
CHAIRMAN KASS: Please, Charles.
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: Because I think what's really bizarre is
transplantation. We've been a species for hundreds of thousands of years, and we
haven't had humans walking around with the organs of others except in the last
50. Now, that's very new.
And we remember the excitement when the first
transplant in South Africa, and that was considered magical or mystical, and
over time, of course, we've gotten used to it, but I think the questions raised
by the story and by what you said, Leon, which is that we really have to
consciously exclude certain feelings that we have about this when we transact
the transplant is true.
We transact it because it saves lives, and that
means it ought to be done, but there is a cost, which I think you were hinting
at Gil, and that cost is that we are transgressing certain boundaries of, if you
like, individual embodiment.
Now, in the case of transplant, the cost is
minimal because that the person is already dead, but we know what the
temptations are: to speed up death, to prepare the dying.
In China they
use prisoners, condemned, and they remove the organs before they are executed.
So it's what we've been talking about in our previous discussions.
the lines are crossed, other lines are more easily crossed, and it's because in
doing the good in transplantation, we are consciously pushing away the things
that make us uneasy about this.
And I think that the next step in this
and the reason that we've been struggling with cloning and these related issues
for the last month is because the logical next step is to take the organs not
from the dying, but from new human life, which is where you go with
And that's why I think it's important at every stage in the
process, every stage has in transplantation which yields unequivocal good. We
ought to stop and look at the cost and think of where it might lead.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Gil, did you want to come back?
PROF. MEILAENDER: No, I'm on the same wave length in a
sense. I mean, I just think that the more we're persuaded by the truth of the
line that you are pursuing, the more troubling the whole operation becomes.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Robby?
PROF. GEORGE: I'd just ask the question for
Isn't there a clear line though between extracting organs from
the dead and removing organs from the living? I understand what the Chinese do,
but they have gone over the line precisely in killing to extract the organs.
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: But let's remember that our definition of
death has changed in the last hundred years and the last 50 years, and in part
to accommodate our need for organs.
It's brain death, which makes sense
to us, but that's a new idea, and once you move the very idea of death in that
direction, when exactly is a patient brain dead? Well, I mean, that's sort of a
decision the doctor can make hour to hour, and you might want to make it earlier
if the organs are fresher.
So it leaves you open to blurring and crossing
PROF. SANDEL: Could I put a quick question that can be
answered by Leon or Charles?
Does your view about the natural impulse to
human embodiment and bodily wholeness suggest to you that those religious
traditions, going back to Frank's point, that believe in cremation tug against
or in some way violate that fundamental human impulse about embodiment?
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: No, I don't think so because I think you
can have a belief system in which when death is a reality and a finality, the
body becomes less important.
In our tradition, the Western tradition, it
remains rather important, which is probably why it strikes us as more difficult
PROF. MEILAENDER: Could I make one comment on that, too? I
mean, I don't think that they necessarily do, but on the other hand, I want to
be cranked down. You know, I mean, that's actually significant to me. I'd like
it done, and I'd like my wife to listen to it happen.
PROF. SANDEL: Let the record reflect that, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Yeah. We should wind up in just a couple of
minutes. I have Paul. Again, I want to go last. I want to put one more word in,
Is there someone else who wants in the queue before we
DR. McHUGH: I only have a few things to say after those
wonderful comments, and actually there are three things.
First of all, I
was there when they did the first transplants at Brigham, and if you remember,
they didn't take them from the dead. They took them from a twin, and it was a
really — I can tell you it was a really scary time because you were trying to
keep the patient who was sick with the kidney disease alive, and you were really
worried about what was going to happen to this healthy person.
And so I
am agreeing with you, Charles, that it was a boundary period, and we should
reflect more about it even today, but I remember the nervousness of us interns
and house officers as we were running about.
The second thing I wanted
just to make a little point as I was reading along this. You know, as I say, I
take care of a lot of patients with grief, and I wondered to myself, "Now, would
I tell her to go and find that guy, or would I say, 'Now, wait a minute. That's
not going to be a good thing for you?"
Because my function, after all, is
to help rehabilitate patients who are suffering from this business.
that brings you back to the whole idea of what do you mean by grief, and grief
is a natural sequence that seems to go pretty similarly from case to case
depending upon the loss.
On the other hand, it is an arena of meaning,
and we doctors don't deal well in meaning because you kind of put a law to it.
And so in the end I thought one of the things about this story, like all
stories, that might be helpful for psychiatrists is that it might enlarge your
scope as to what kinds of behaviors you would permit, let's say, rather than
I would be very worried about encouraging this woman to do
this because I'm afraid that the success would lead her to come back again and
again, and the fact that in the end that she says she's not going to do that, I
kind of held my breath a bit about that.
But I just wanted to finally
come back to the idea that this a deeply Hebraic story, I believe, with this
deep sense that we sometimes lose that the distinction in scripture is often not
between spiritual and material, but between vitality and weakness, and a
spiritual man is a man of spirit, full of life and vitalized by the power of God
rather than etherialized.
And finally, to come back in my work, one of
the problems that we are facing with the idea that human kind could be looked at
not that way, as an animated body, but a soul trapped in the body like a bird in
a cage is one of the reasons why people come to us. They don't come to Hopkins
anymore because I put an end to it, but they would come to Hopkins and say, "You
know what? I'm a woman in a man's body, and you've got to do something about
that. You've got to hack away at me."
And that comes out of this idea
that somehow or another, there's somebody inside that's different from what we
are, and it's a problem, and it's interesting to track it back.
think the Hebraic tradition wouldn't have anything to do with that, but I leave
it to you to tell me.
CHAIRMAN KASS: No, I certainly think that's right. Let me
make just two points, and then I want to give Dan Foster the last
Charles is in a way right in saying, and it's partly what I've
been pushing here, we did talk about the question of property in parts of the
body and questions of modification, but in part one might be worried about that
because one thinks of the degrading sale or one worried for other reasons about
creeping commerce, but I don't think that one would begin to worry about
commerce in the movement of body parts if one didn't have some prior at least
minimal disquiet about the moving of the body parts themselves, even if it were
done without money.
And Mary Ann's suggestion that we might hear some
time in the fall or have some discussion of legal systems where the ground for
excluding bodies, the human body from the domain of what can be owned rests upon
some understanding of that.
And this is not to say that one has an
objection to transplantation, but that one should understand it as having to
overcome things which are ?- the question is whether the things that are
disquiet bespeaks is simply the strangeness and novelty of it, as Charles
suggests, or whether this is another one of those things where it's a clue to
something about our identity and who we are that is at least being threatened,
nevertheless that good may come of it.
The second point I wanted to make
has to do with something that Robby said, and it is, I think, probably Hebraic,
as well. This is from the Book of Ruth. The remark, "Whither thou goest I will
go," is said by Ruth to Naomi, when Naomi returns home, Ruth then and her sister
both having lost their husbands and often, it seems to me it's being said as
it's a sign of the friendship of women.
But I think it' s probably truer
to say that Ruth goes with Naomi as her daughter-in-law , which is to say as the
wife of her now deceased husband and the whole trajectory of the story really is
the levirate marriage and the raising up of seed to the dead.
story adds to Gil's very fine opening presentation about whole and part and
spirit and body is this thought, which until I read this story. It wouldn't have
come home to me so powerfully. There is a way in which as embodied beings we're
halves, and that it's a real question whether or not and part of the real
difficulty for this woman is being unclear as to whether she's wife or widow.
She cannot somehow go on, and that has something to do with the fact that —
additional complication of what it means to be an embodied being is somehow to
live in time and then be connected with generation and the missing
If one wants to really think about bodily identity, one has to
think about that aspect of our bodily identity which is tied to generation and,
therefore, implies complementarity or something else and not just the
individualistic view of ourselves top to bottom as, you know, what are we along,
but the relational aspect is very powerfully presented.
I'm sorry for
that. Let me turn it over to Dan and then we'll take a break.
DR. FOSTER: Well, I thought it was pretty good. What I'm
going to say now does not mean that I do not believe that we're a whole. I'm
trying to say that, you k now, all of us live in body. In some sense, sometimes
we disagree with our body. I mean, I did not see the sexual connotation that
Frank saw in here, and I don't need Viagra, but maybe I need something to
increase my thoughts about sex. I don't know. Maybe we ought to do that. I don't
We live as — I'm just kidding — we live as a whole, and sometimes
we deny our bodies, and sometimes we enhance them. Sometimes we're weak, and
sometimes we're strong, and so forth, but I want to talk about the end for just
I've hinted at this and said this before. I think death is
always a serious event. Sometimes it's a blessing and sometimes it's a curse or
a loss and so forth, but it's always a serious event, and I just want to share
my own experience with this.
Whether one is alone there or whether there
is a group of physicians or family, there is that moment in death where everyone
who is there knows that in an instant the person is no more. We oftentimes use
the term "departed."
Leon shared with me his presence at the death of one
of his close friends, holding hands, and he and the nun continued to talk, and
the nun didn't realize because of their conversation, and as I recall Leon's
story, she said, "I think he's gone now."
And Leon gently said — I think
you can correct me — said, "Well, he left 30 minutes ago," or something. They
were so intense in conversation.
But there is a palpable sense that
something has gone. The body is intact. I can take any part out of it and
transplant it and it works. I mean I can take kidney; I can take cornea; I can
take heart. It's in that sense still alive.
I mean, it can't generate ATP
and it can't sustain itself by itself, but it's there. But something is gone.
It's like a breath of life has gone, and if you're there, everyone there knows
it, and in every sense that I've ever been there, there's a sort of a silence
and a sort of a reverence that that has happened.
And so I do not believe
that we are defined by our bodies. I think they're necessary to live, but
they're not defined by our bodies, and that is what has led in many faith
experiences the sense that I do not cease to be.
Another way of saying
this, you know, if Yogi Berra was talking, he would say, "It's not over when
it's over." It's not over when it's over. I mean, that's the hope of humans, by
the way. Gil wants to be buried whole because he wants that pitiful, old body
he's got right now to still be resurrected.
You know, I mean, I'm just
DR. FOSTER: But the point, I'm trying to make a really
serious point, and everybody knows it, and sometimes the eyes are closed and one
is just comatose, and it just goes, but sometimes, not infrequently, before the
death the eyes are roving of the person who's going to die. They're like this.
It's like they're seeing something or trying to see something.
oftentimes thought — I don't pay too much attention to near death experiences,
people who, you know, have been resuscitated. They have these visions about —
they say they're never afraid of death anymore and they may have heard music or
all sorts. That's just a vision as far as I'm concerned.
But you do
symbolically have a sense that someone might be looking for something else as
So I just want to say that I think it's a terrible mistake,
and I agree with Frank. That's why I wouldn't think that I would be worried
about cremation or anything else, because that's not me. I mean, whatever this
breath of life is, that's me.
At one time it had a body and now it
doesn't, but I think it would be an error to say that one is only what these
hands are, what this mind is, and so forth.
So I just wanted to pass that
on from experience. I probably — I mean, I've been there so many times that it
never ceases to amaze me how everyone knows that the breath of life is gone. He
departed, Leon said about his friend. He left 30 minutes ago.
I hope you
don't mind me sharing that conversation.
So that's all I wanted to say at
the end. I don't think that this part of this person's heart or anybody's heart
is that person. I don't think that at all. I think that's my sense. I mean, I
think that's itself a little bizarre to think that.
So I didn't mean to
say so much, but I did want to share this sense that there's something great
that's not part of these hands.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you very much.
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: Could I just add a footnote on this idea of
the embodiment of the dead body?
I read on the Net this morning before
leaving that the Israelis apparently were going to put Barghouti on trial,
there's a report that they're going to release him to the Lebanese and plus 100
live terrorists in return for an Israeli who had been kidnapped in the body of
the three Israelis who had been kidnapped and killed in Lebanon a year and a
I mean, the value that they and, I think, we put on the bodies
of the dead is simply astonishing in this offer which apparently is reported
this morning, which is so unbelievably one sided, I think is a testament to how
much importance we put on the what's left of us even when the breath is
DR. FOSTER: Well, I would say in the conversations that
we've been having about cloning and so forth that the dead body is symbolically
very meaningful to everybody, and it's due high respect for what it once was,
and that may be something of great value, but it depends on where you're coming
from. I mean, if you believe that that body is all there is and that there was
nothing that was in that body, then, of course, you may want to say, "Well, if
I've got to return, that's all I've got, and what I also don't have is any hope,
I mean, you know, in death. What I also don't have is any hope in death."
CHAIRMAN KASS: We should stop. I simply want to say that, I,
for one, am very grateful that that breath of life that is the soul of Dan
Foster is connected to a tongue.
We're adjourned for 15 minutes. We'll
say 10:35 we'll come back.