Is the Death of Infants Ranked Higher than that of the Elderly?

Death is the great equalizer that affects all of the world, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, but not all deaths are equal and not all deaths gain recognition and publicity in the same way.[i] In the this approach to the hierarchy of life and death, the two major points of interest are the beginning and the end: the bookends of life. Both events have become increasing medicalized due to advancing technology and influx of research[ii] and in some cases become topics of public debate. So which death matters more: the death of an infant or the death of an elderly person? The ranking of lives may seem unethical and an uncomfortable topic to discuss but subconsciously an answer to this question may already have formed in your head. The research gathered will show that in general the deaths of infants matter more in US society than that of the elderly. Evidence is found by examining people’s attitudes and general opinions regarding both scenarios, comparing the popularity of the topic and amount of legislature surrounding abortion and the care of infants versus geriatric care, and by analyzing how the US society views/handles older people and infants compared to other cultures.

Barring the initial pause, one may have in deliberating as to whether infants’ deaths are more pressing than deaths of the elderly, we must examine the ethics of the argument and then the dilemmas such a conclusion may cause.

Is it ethical to intrinsically care more for infants as they develop than for the elderly as they wither? Analyzing the societal standards for care between the groups is pertinent in assessing that there is a discrepancy in care. As revealed by Teller’s article on parenthood religion, the “baby on board” placards that have become ubiquitous in American culture reveal the extreme attention given to infant care[iii]. If it were not intrinsically coordinated that an infant’s life was superior and important to others, such a sign would not exist. The absence of signs cautioning others of onboard, fragile elders also details the internal US belief that human life is most valued at birth. Further, the actual fragility of children is not as important as most think. This is especially in the comparison of the elderly as infant mortality rates fall worldwide, and are as low 2% (>36 weeks)[iv].

Bairoliya N, Fink G (2018) “Causes of death and infant mortality rates among full-term births in the United States between 2010 and 2012: An observational study”. PLoS Med 15(3): e1002531. Mar. 20, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019.

Relative Mortality Risk in the U.S.

It seems the evidence and analytics point to a strict emotional attachment to infancy death which forces individuals to care about infant’s deaths more so than death of the elderly. In an ethical evaluation, it does not make sense to value such infancy lives more.

To further exemplify how US society ranks the death of infants higher than that of the elderly, it is important to examine the way other cultures compare. One of the biggest indicators of the cultural differences is seeing how elderly foreigners here in the US respond to western medical practices. The US comprises of many immigrants whose children were born here and their views align more to a modern way of living which at times can be starkly different than their older generation’s traditional ways.[v] Conflicts and dilemmas arise when an older foreign person is being treated in a hospital and feels disregarded due to the lack of communication, perhaps from a literal language barrier, or from the vast difference in perspectives on how the US cares for the elderly. For example, a Chinese man stopped taking his medication and showing up to his medical appointments because they were invasive, cold, and did not align with his cultural views. An older Filipino man was in poor condition and the doctors recommended to his daughters that he should be moved to hospice care. The daughters wanted the doctors to tell their father it was their professional decision and mandatory he be moved because they knew he didn’t want to be taken from his home per Filipino cultural values and he would be disappointed in his daughters for not standing by his needs or holding the values to the same standard. The doctors couldn’t tell comply with the daughters wishes and the situation was hard to resolve. Western medical practices relating to the care of the elderly are seen by others as trying to return the patient to productive, economically rewarding work, controlling of practice, procedure, and information, and strictly monitoring the patient and altering practices to standardize outcome.[vi] This further supports that there is less care and less priority given to the deaths of the elderly and their care up until that point.

One standardized way of handling the elderly is through the use of nursing homes or life care facilities but do the elderly really want to spend their final days isolated from the rest of society? Research supports that living in care homes can be humiliating for the elderly and further the idea that they are a burden on society due to their lack of independence which is so highly valued in US culture.[vii] Though many elderly live in nursing homes or by themselves, not all do and many live with and rely on their families though this can still highlight their dependence on others and further their self-view as a burden. Studies also show that social disconnectedness is associated with worse mental and physical health and leads to increased rates of mortality and morbidity regardless of if the feelings are prompted from being abandoned or perceived lack of social support from family.[viii]

Health vs. Isolation Graph

Seniors view nursing homes as a place to go to die and once you go in you don’t leave, but they comply because they don’t want to burden their families or lose pride by admitting they cannot do what they once could. Because of the heavy reliance on nursing homes and in care facilities, seniors are more isolated from society which leads to higher mortality rates and feelings of loneliness.

This mindset of burden others is an Anglo American view and is virtually nonexistent in other cultures.[ix] Due to increased medicalization in the US, people’s perspectives on aging are shifting and seniors are expected to be independent longer and their care and inevitable deaths are less emphasized, however other cultures put extreme emphasis on respect and dignity for their elders.[x]  Japan has cultural values of high respect for the elderly ingrained into their society. They even have a day dubbed Respect for the Aged Day which is far more serious than it may seem; neighborhood volunteers take free food to the elderly and some villages hold special performances and ceremonies for the elderly.[xi] Many generations live together under one roof which may contribute to the long life spans attributed with happiness and longevity and higher population of elderly that have become characteristic of the country. Japan also engages in death rituals and places significance on respecting ancestors.[xii] Nearly 90% of the Japanese observe the custom of annual visits to ancestral graves and ancestor worship is a fundamental principle of culture and identity which has remained a priority despite changes in modernization and economic growth.[xiii] Similarly, rituals and respect for the elders are a crucial part of Chinese society. In fact, paying respect to the elderly by way of emotional and financial support is now a part of Chinese law.[xiv] Parents can sue their own children if they feel they are not receiving what has been culturally deemed appropriate. This societal value may stem from the ancestral value placed on the dead because many Chinese believe they continue to influence the fortunes of the living from the grave.[xv] Therefore, respect is shown throughout an elder’s life and by performing these rituals because of the continued relationship between the living and the dead.

The United States is a comparatively young nation to other countries. Thus, our belief system in treating our populace varies vastly from foreign countries. As pointed out culturally, this includes how we treat our elderly vs. our infants. Both parties are humans and should be, in theory, entitled to the same treatment. However, the elderly are a learned party that usually only needs assistance due to a handicap of ability. Infants are blank slates that must be looked after and educated. It may be this inability to experience life and learn from it that puts individuals in a moral conundrum– it is unfair that this poor infant won’t be able to experience life and will be taken away early without ability to fulfill any sort of aspiration. The absence of opportunity pushes us to care for infants more. Does this fit in an ethical framework? No, the death of an adult person is a tragedy because a sophisticated unique consciousness has been lost; a life in progress, of plans and ideals and relationships with other persons, has been broken off. The death of a young child, is also a tragedy, but it seems a comparatively one-sided one, the loss of a tremendously important part of the parents’ lives[xvi]. It seems the Chinese have taken this frame of thought and accurately applied it to their way of caregiving and weight of importance in deaths. They have learned and appreciate the value of a lifetime of experience and knowledge. This comparison between the US and other cultures brings to light how different the ranking of the elderly fall in the hierarchy of death. Because of the ritual traditions that are a fundamental part of society and the belief that ancestors can still have some power after death, other societies such as Japan and China, put great importance on the care for the elderly and their subsequent deaths. Since the US does not have a singular culture or a long history, these traditions and values are lost and the general focus falls on economic progress and self-sustainability which leaves the elderly forgotten, less respected and cared for and their deaths seen as inevitable events.

As for deaths surrounding infants, it’s easy to see why it should rank higher than that of an elderly in the sense that a baby is young, pure, and innocent with its whole life ahead of it. But another reason the US can be perceived as putting so much emphasis on infant deaths can stem from the immense popularity surrounding abortion legislation. This topic has been majorly divisive in the US with both sides becoming increasingly vocal and has even gained a foothold in political campaigns.[xvii] In contrast, the US lacks adequate health care and legislation surrounding geriatric care and as lifespans increase, many elderly have to stay employed longer because they cannot afford to retire.[xviii] The debate surrounding abortion and whether or not this should be considered the killing of an infant is also found worldwide.

Abortion Laws Around the World

Though it is worth noting that the US created legislation surrounding the Roe vs. Wade case that bars criminalizing abortion.[xix] Some believe overturning the decisions from that case could result in laws that look more like some foreign countries’ where there are tight restrictions and outright bans.[xx] While laws and regulations differ among the world, the US places great emphasis on this topic and supporters of both sides make their voices known through bumper stickers or t-shirts.[xxi] This sort of popularity and prominence is not found regarding the deaths of the older generations, there are no political campaigns or movements that make supporting t-shirts for their cause. A contrasting cultural view is in Alto do Cruzeiro where many infants die each year due to starvation and dehydration and chances of survival are slim. The society gives seemingly little attention to these deaths. In fact, women have been found to view their infants’ death as a blessing or great relief saying they feel “unburdened and free”.[xxii] These views are not because they are cold and unfeeling but much in the way it is natural and expected for an older person to die, this is the case for the infants in Alto do Cruzeiro. From these findings it can be concluded that the death of an infant in the US, whether by choice or not, will rank higher and have more care and emotion surrounding it than the death of an elderly person.

 

After examining the cultural ramifications and the ethics of the Hierarchy of Death, one must also consider the science behind why people value infant deaths more than those of the elderly. The underlying reasons that have influenced cultures around the world stem from biology and evolution.  Ethology is the area of study that focuses on animal or human behavior from a biological perspective. While not as popular a science as ecology or chemistry, it provides vital insight into why humans care so much for their infants. Ethologists are particularly concerned with the evolutionary reasons behind why species engage in certain behaviors and the work of Konrad Lorenz is essential in the current understanding of how and why parents bond with their child. Cuteness is a very subjective term that is used to describe the attractiveness that is typically associated with youthful features. Kindchenschema, as described by Lorenz is defined as the common infantile features such as a large head, round face, and big eyes that many perceive as cute.[xxiii] He proposed that these features induce caretaking behavior from other humans. Indeed, cuteness acts a promoter of sociality, and the bonds formed as a result of this endows the cute entity with greater moral consideration. For instance, cuteness27 can directly affect the neural network in such a manner that promotes adults to have a sense of carefree playfulness around babies.[xxiv]

A 1978 study by Hildebrandt KA revealed that the initial response of adults towards babies is increased facial zygomaticus muscle activity, or more succinctly put, a smile.[xxv] A more recent study, also found that Kindchenschema is present across both species and ethnicities.[xxvi] Participants were given three categories: African babies, Caucasian babies, and puppies. There were about 100 pictures collected for each category and in each category, the participant would rate the cuteness of the infant face on a scale from 1 to 7.  The order of the pictures was set up such that the cute and less cute pictures were paired together but the two presented pictures were always in the same category. To clarify, the participants never compared an African baby with a Caucasian baby or with a dog. Their purpose in doing that was to increase the probability that the difference in cuteness between two pictures could be perceived. What they found was that the mean cuteness was the same for all three different groups.

When a child is born there is a flush of oxytocin in the mother that helps to facilitate the mother-child bonding process. Fathers do not always instantly fall in love, and oxytocin levels only surge when the father can spend time caring for the children. Regardless of the difference in how the bond is initially formed, assuming that it is a stable family, fathers still feel a deep emotional attachment to their child. The loss of an infant can be a deafening blow to the family. They created a bond with the child and not too long after the creation of that bond, the child is taken from them.

Technology has afforded many people access to greater prenatal and neonatal health care. The commonly cited statistic that the life expectancy during medieval times was 30 has led to a gross misunderstanding of what life was back then. The alarmingly short life-span of 30 years is a result[xxvii] of the fact that pre-modern civilizations had high amounts of infant mortality, thus skewing the result. If infantile death was more common before modern medicine, then could newlywed couples be expected to have to bury a child? If so then there may[xxviii]  be less emotional attachment involved in the early years of raising children. Nowadays, infants are expected to live to adulthood and a great deal of biomedical technology is focused on sustaining life as long as possible.[xxix]

After explaining through ethology why infants are so valued by society, one may ask where that leaves the geriatric population. While some people have taken to calling the elderly cute, they don’t carry the Kindchenschema that makes people want to take care of them. Unfortunately, that does not alter the fact that many elderly people still need close care towards the end of their life, and they are underrepresented in clinical research. The lack of representation means that it is easier for the geriatric population to slip through the cracks of scientific academia.[xxx] Beyond the weight of importance assigned to the lives/deaths of the elderly and infants is how care in the stages prior to the death of each differ and why the difference between the two is not fair nor ethical in practice. In terms of care, elderly are usually confined to homes or hospices that will take care of their daily needs and house them as they deteriorate. There has not been much innovation in the US healthcare system in regards to elderly end of life care. In fact, most of the technology implemented to assist the caregiving of the elderly has been remote-centric[xxxi]. That is, partitioning caregivers even further away from patients. This type of care is completely opposite of that given to infants. Infants are often put in care centers and with professionals which have proven positive effects[xxxii]. These effects include increased academic scoring, sociability, and resistance to communicable disease. While the elderly are not necessarily in need of improvement to academic sociability, the likeness of the other factors would surely benefit their health. It is unethical to not offer the same sort of care to the elderly on a similar scale. The availability of such a system might force US culture to value deaths of the elderly more as investment in them increases. Evolution and biology values organisms that are fit to have reproductive success. In a strikingly similar but more cultural vein, humans have an innate affinity to value other humans that have a capacity to contribute to society. Babies of course cannot contribute to society in the same capacity that an adult could, but thanks to their “cute” features, they don’t have reason to worry about how well they can perform their societal role.

When considering the scientific mechanisms behind how humans can bond with their children, it becomes apparent that babies have been refined by evolution in such a manner that it causes the parent to instinctively want to be a caregiver. The elderly have no such biological function and have to rely on the social bonds that they have already made. It is because of this that scientific evidence points towards infantile death being given more attention than geriatric death.

 

Madeleine Smith, Alexander Rassouli, Tyler Dunston

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[i] Jones, Owen. “Our Shameful Hierarchy – Some Deaths Matter More than Others.” The Independent. May 15, 2013. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[ii] Welch, Gilbert H. “The Medicalization of Life.” Los Angeles Times. March 15, 2010. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[iii] Teller, Danielle. “How American parenting is killing the American marriage”. Quartz. Sept. 30, 2014. Accessed April 5, 2019.

[iv] Bairoliya N, Fink G (2018) “Causes of death and infant mortality rates among full-term births in the United States between 2010 and 2012: An observational study”. PLoS Med 15(3): e1002531. Mar. 20, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019.

[v]Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.” Taylor and Francis Online. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[vi]How Society Misunderstands the Elderly.” U.S. News & World Report. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[vii] “Cultural Perspectives of Meals Expressed by Patients in Geriatric Care.” International Journal of Nursing Studies. March 02, 1999. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[viii] Cornwell, Erin York, and Linda J. Waite. “Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health among Older Adults.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. March 2009. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[ix]How Society Misunderstands the Elderly.” U.S. News & World Report. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[x]How Society Misunderstands the Elderly.”

[xi] Chavez, Amy. “Planet Tokyo.” Tokyo. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xii]Japanese Funeral.” Japanese Funeral, Traditions and Customs. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xiii] “The Challenge of Ancestor Worship in Japan.” University of Pretoria. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link..

[xiv] Brenoff, Ann, and Ann Brenoff. “Who’s The Adult In Your Family?” HuffPost. December 10, 2013. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xv] Yeo, and Teresa Rebecca. “Chinese Death Rituals.” Infopedia. November 30, 2015. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xvi] Wells, Thomas Rodham. “Children are special, but not particularly important”. 3QuartsDaily. Jan. 19, 2015. Accessed April 5, 2019.

[xvii] Shain, R. N. “A Cross-cultural History of Abortion.” Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. March 1986. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xviii] “Older Adults in US Sicker Than Those in Other Countries.” Older Adults in US Sicker Than Those in Other Countries. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xix] Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. “Death Without Weeping.” In Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil, 179-89. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992.

[xx] “Abortion around World: The Countries with Most Restrictive Laws and Why Debate Is Back in Spotlight.” The Telegraph. May 23, 2018. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xxi] Shain, R. N. “A Cross-cultural History of Abortion.” Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. March 1986. Accessed April 03, 2019. Link.

[xxii] Glocker, Melanie L., Daniel D. Langleben, Kosha Ruparel, James W. Loughead, Ruben C. Gur, and Norbert Sachser. “Baby Schema in Infant Faces Induces Cuteness Perception and Motivation for Caretaking in Adults.” Ethology : Formerly Zeitschrift Fur Tierpsychologie. March 2009. Accessed April 08, 2019. Link.

[xxiii] Golle, Jessika, Fabian Probst, Fred W. Mast, and Janek S. Lobmaier. “Preference for Cute Infants Does Not Depend on Their Ethnicity or Species: Evidence from Hypothetical Adoption and Donation Paradigms.” PLOS ONE. Accessed April 08, 2019. Link.

[xxiv] Senese, Vincenzo Paolo, Simona De Falco, Marc H. Bornstein, Andrea Caria, Simona Buffolino, and Paola Venuti. “Human Infant Faces Provoke Implicit Positive Affective Responses in Parents and Non-Parents Alike.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 11 (2013). Accessed April 8, 2019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080379.

[xxv] Senese, “Human Infant Faces Provoke Implicit Positive Affective Responses in Parents and Non-Parents Alike.”.

[xxvi] Golle, “Preference for Cute Infants Does Not Depend on Their Ethnicity or Species: Evidence from Hypothetical Adoption and Donation Paradigms.”

[xxvii] Senese, “Human Infant Faces Provoke Implicit Positive Affective Responses in Parents and Non-Parents Alike.”.

[xxviii] Senese, “Human Infant Faces Provoke Implicit Positive Affective Responses in Parents and Non-Parents Alike.”.

[xxix] Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Children and Their Families. “BEREAVEMENT EXPERIENCES AFTER THE DEATH OF A CHILD.” When Children Die: Improving Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Children and Their Families. January 01, 1970. Accessed April 08, 2019. Link.

[xxx] Shenoy, Premnath, and Anand Harugeri. “Elderly Patients’ Participation in Clinical Trials.” Perspectives in Clinical Research. 2015. Accessed April 08, 2019. Link.

[xxxi] Tao, Hang; McRoy, Susan. “Caring for and keeping the elderly in their homes”. College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Aug. 29, 2015. Accessed April 5, 2019.

[xxxii] Bradley RH, Vandell DL. “Child Care and the Well-being of Children”. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. July 2007. 161(7):669–676. Accessed April 5, 2019.

 

10 Comments

  1. Wow, the questions this article, and more broadly this category of “ranking deaths” pose are so difficult to answer, to the extent that I am not completely sure what my own stance on these issues is. In terms of ranking infant death over those of the elderly, your article makes it clear that in the U.S., infants are treated with much more care and attention than the elderly, and thus their deaths are by extension viewed as more tragic. Given the universality of human hormonal responses to being around infants and the evolutionary advantages of protecting progeny at all costs, I would have thought this attitude, although ethically questionable, would be universally shared throughout cultures. What surprised me about your article, however, was that it highlights how in many countries, the death of elderly individuals is treated as just as tragic the death of infants. This seems to reflect broader trend that appears in many of these articles, namely that human behavior cannot be solely boiled down to biological drives, at least given our current understanding of evolutionary theory. That being said, on a visceral and moral level, I would agree more with the view that the death of an elderly person should be treated as just as tragic as the death of an infant, particularly because of the point you highlighted that adult deaths are more tragic because they involve the loss of a “sophisticated, unique consciousness”. Indeed, while an infant shows little evidence of self awareness and is not yet fully integrated the complex social network of their communities, the elderly have had years to establish their role in society, to make connections, and to acquire valuable life experiences, so losing an elderly person likely results in much more far reaching social shifts than the loss of an infant. This particular difference between the elderly and infants also highlights a possible reason for the divide between attitudes toward the elderly in the U.S versus in eastern cultures. Namely, eastern cultures tend to define the value of a person not only through their individual traits and accomplishments, but rather through their broader relations to the community. Thus from an eastern collectivist perspective, the life of an elderly person is more valuable by proxy of their social connections. Still, even if the elderly are indeed contributing to society more than an infant is, I personally would not go so far as to say that their deaths should be ranked higher in importance than infant deaths, because to do so would be to say that value of a human life is conditional and extrinsically defined. Given the slippery slope such an assertion would create ethically, I would argue that ideally speaking people of all ages should be treated with the same respect and their deaths given the same weight. That being said, your article highlights that such morally idealistic views fail to take into account the complexity of cultural and environmental effects on attitudes towards life and death, thus once again highlighting how the ethicacy of attitudes towards life and death largly depend on cultural context.

  2. Great post! I never really considered “cuteness” to be a determinant of infant care. The evolutionary aspect of this debate makes sense though. It’s definitely interesting that our evolutionary instincts to rank infant death higher helps motivate policies and public perception regarding death. I used to not give “Baby on Board” signs a second thought. However, I realize that I do tend to drive more cautiously around these cars. In addition, most people tend to get frustrated when old people drive slowly. These are contrasting reactions that provide further insight into how we perceive death.

  3. This post does a fantastic job at answering one of biggest ethical dilemmas that I can think of, and that is essentially is it ok to rank the life of an infant higher than that of an elderly person? In your post you argue for both sides in an extremely organized and well thought out manner that makes answering this question extremely difficult. On one hand, elderly people are just as human as infants and they should be entitled to the same right to live that an infant is. When an elderly person passes away, a life that has potentially impacted numerous others is lost whereas an infant has not impacted nearly the same amount. An infant is a blank slate that has done no wrong yet, and many people use this as an argument to elevate the status of an infant above any other age group. After reading your post, it becomes clear to see exactly why infants’ lives are ranked higher than that of the elderly, all though it is very possible to argue for the latter. Here in the US, the cultural perspectives on life play a large role in answering this question as the majority of people believe that the life of an infant is ranked higher based on their own experiences.

  4. I never actually thought about why, in society, that we value an infant’s life more than an elderly’s life. However, this article justifies all the reasons why this is the norm. I found it interesting that the Alto do Cruzeiro culture, where many infants die each year due to starvation and dehydration, view infants’ death as a blessing. In US culture, we would see that is being inhumane, but just as we expect an older person to die they expect infants to die due to their living conditions.

  5. This was an amazing post! I loved how well you integrated the scientific, cultural, and ethical aspect. In my reading of your post, I found a connection between the way that the Chinese respect their elders and my post on ghosts and how Chinese people view ghosts. Like in your post, my post about ghosts talk about how Chinese people vehemently respect their elders because it is thought that if the ancestors are not satisfied with their treatment in life, they will come back and haunt the living.
    While reading your post, I was preparing what I was going to write about in my comment, and one thing I thought of early on was how babies are cute, and like with our value placed on cute animals, one explanation as to why babies are ranked higher than the elderly is because they are cuter. I was surprised when I read that you guys actually covered this and that this idea actually has a name, Kindchenschema. I also really liked how you guys went into the theories behind Kindchenschema, especially in regards to the surge of oxytocin that a mother gets during birth.
    An additional perspective you could look at is if elderly people in the United States feel the same way as the general population. Have they been conditioned so much to view their own death as less than an infants death? Once again, I thought this was an amazing post! Great job!

  6. ‘Why aren’t all death equal?’ Having to answer this question is difficult, but I do believe that there is more attention towards infant deaths in the US than for deaths of the elderly, and I think I personally believe that. The babies are the future. They have more power to change the world, lead the government, and create new ideas. However, it is interesting to note that the death of the elderly leads to the death of a whole lifetime of ideas, plans, and memories–adding a whole new level of importance. I do not believe there is a right answer to the question, but it is clear in the US how emphasis is placed on preserving the lives of the young–from ‘baby on board’ stickers to always saving women and children first in the movies. Is it a fair assumption to say that infants have more to offer than the elderly? Or should we consider the importance of one’s contributions in life?

  7. This was such an interesting topic. I find that in the United States, we certainly do care about the death of infants more than we care about the death of the elderly. I also agree that it is totally natural for this considering that infants have their full lives in front of them and that the elderly are already nearing death so it seems less sorrowful. I’m glad you mentioned Roe V Wade because considering your views on abortion, some would say that in the United States we don’t view the death of children highly enough. On the opposing side, some could say that the elderly contribute more because of their life’s work and the children have done nothing for society, but this perspective to me does not empathize with the parents or children well. The death of elderly and young is something to mourn over, and this post did a good job of laying out why it is that we seem to place higher value on an infant’s life than an elderly.

  8. Interesting points were made in this report about the treatment of elderly compared to that of the young. It is interesting to think that Americans tend to value the lives of younger people more than those who are old, when the lives of everyone should be considered equal. I also liked the mentioning of how America varies in how they treat the elderly, as Japan and other nations practice rituals that will respect the elderly, while America lacks that. I also like how you noted America being a young nation as one of the reasons this could be. Should the lives of the elderly be considered less valuable than those of individuals who are younger? this article provides us with a basis to ask these pressing questions.

  9. It was great to see that this article contains different components of beliefs from different cultures in making an argument. It is disappointing that not all human lives are held to the same regards, however, that is an aspect of life as even in your own life you will value the death of people close to you rather than a stranger. As obvious that may sound, it is not something people might consider when reading on the news of the many people dying daily. Of course how strongly bonded a person is with the deceased will affect the way they deal with death, and this is also a result of the inequity derived from how people weigh a person’s death. It’s also important to look at it from different cultural perspectives which the article does well, but at the end it seems the conclusion comes from the perspective of an American one. In Asian culture filial piety is very strong, and speaking from personal experience I have a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of my elders first before those younger than me. That is not to say my experience is conclusive of what the majority Asian culture believes, but at the very least the conclusion from this article is not an umbrella to define how all cultures weigh lives.

  10. I found this post to be very informative and philosophical. This article debates why humans specifically in the United States of America put infant lives higher on the totem pole than the elderly. The article comments on how the elderly are humans too and deserve equal treatment in care as infants especially in terms of death. However, infants are viewed as not only the future of society but also have cute features that make humans more instinctively care for them more than the elderly despite the fact that many elderly need assistance. While reading this article, I wondered how to make the hierarchy of death more equal to allow for more care for the elderly when they age. I think another perspective that could have been added to this article would be the opinion of someone who has lost both a child and a parent. This would allow one to see the difference in the process of mourning and evaluate in true society if people really put an emphasize on infant death instead of the elderly. Overall, this article was very well written because it included both sides of the argument allowing for a better development of opinion by the reader.

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