Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lying to the Dying

Several days ago I was watching an old episode of The Rifleman ("The Prodigal") on TV. In this episode a criminal is at Lucas McCain's house with his mother who was oblivious to her son's nefarious activities. While there, the mother has an attack and is only given a short time to live by the doctor. The criminal is about to confess to his mother that he was a wanted criminal. However, just before he is able to, Lucas jumps into the conversation and confesses to being the criminal instead. He later tells the criminal that he didn't do that for him, implying it was the sake of his dying mother.

I have seen many shows and movies where something similar happens with a dying person being told a lie. It's usually done because they want the person to die happy rather than sad. While I can understand the motive behind this, I have always been uncomfortable with it. After examining why I felt this way, I realized what my concerns were.

If a person simply dies, never to be alive again in an afterlife, then it really doesn't matter if the person is told a terrible truth. Once they are dead, they will never be able to fret over it anyway. On the other hand, if there is an afterlife, then the recipient of the lie will most likely discover the deception as soon as they cross over and may be disappointed in, or even angry at, the liar. So, it seems to me there is no good reason for lying to the dying to spare their feelings. It will either do absolutely no good or bring harm to a relationship.

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