Bart van Lieshout

Plan your death

December 2011

We could take more control over the moment our life ends. Is death-planning an option?

Death is the only certainty in life. And probably the most ignored one. How many people – not suffering from an incurable illness – have plans for their death. Will there be a service? Where will this take place, and to what end? Who will speak and of what exactly? What music will sound to remember your life or celebrate your passing to the next level – if you believe in such a thing. I suppose most of us have some sort of notion of these inevitable things to come, but deliberately blurred. Our death is not really in our system. We loath to picture our parting and it’s consequence: a world without us in it. So we ignore it as much as possible.

Take control

But maybe we better not. We could gain by taking control of our death. Both on a personal level and as a society it would have some advantages to plan our death. Extending our control-freak culture to the end of our life would enable us to pick the perfect date and location for our passing. It would be possible for lovers to die together, surrounded by loved ones that would be prepared instead of hysterical. When a date for death is set in advance, we could have all those vital last conversations in peace and relative health. At home or in the woods in contrast to a hospital bed. We could plan the last events leading up to the final moment with care, going on a trip we always longed for but never made, or giving a farewell party spending all our money.

A maximum age

There would be benefits to planned death for the society as well. Increased life expectancy is fantastic, but costly. The medical costs for keeping one alive one last year are considerable. And how long does one really need to live? Would it be plausible to grand everyone ninety years? Or one hundred years? Surely there will be many who will die before they reach this titanic age, but for those who do make it in health to their hundredths birthday would it be strange to say “enough is enough”?
If a society could agree upon an age limit, this would not necessarily mean certain death the instant you reach it. It could be agreed upon to calculate pensions, insurances and other product that hinge the odds of death to be fixed to this age. Persons who pass away before this age could receive the remaining sum (minus medical costs) and those who live beyond it will have to look after themselves. A system like that would entail new freedom for senior citizens. On the day you retire you will know how much money is available for you. Choosing a date for your death determines whether you live a hundred years, or blow your pension in a decade.


For those who don’t believe in a supreme being picking the dates for us, death-planning could provide a sense of grip on the most inevitable event of our lives.

However, I do not believe death-planning will take off as a trend. We humans are equipped with a will to live that is designed to prevents us from actually making our death happen. Even if we would rationally believe dying to be the better option, our actions to accomplish our death will most likely be sabotaged by our own brain. The smart thing to do is biologically not programmed into our system.

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