A STROLL from Todoroki station, at the kink of a path lined with cherry trees, lies a small wooden temple. A baby Buddha sits on the sill. The residents of the Tokyo suburb ask the infant for pin pin korori. It is a wish for two things. The first is a long, spry life. The second is a quick and painless death.
Just part of this wish is likely to be granted. The paradox of modern medicine is that people are living longer, and yet doing so with more disease. Death is rarely either quick or painless. Often it is traumatic. As the end nears, people tend to have goals that matter more than eking out every last second. But too few are asked what matters most to them. In the rich world most people die in a hospital or nursing home, often after pointless, aggressive treatment. Many die alone, confused and in pain.