A Quality of Life
July 29, 2017Posted by on
This week on Facebook: I was going to add a comment to Colin’s remark that life without quality of life has no value, instead it made wonder what was meant by a quality of life. The remark was made in response to Charles’ post Do English Courts Really Believe in the Sanctity of Life? It seems to me that the sanctity of life and the quality of life are both ethical issues in which some may find, or seek, a correlation. However, I found that the sanctity of life focused more on a spiritual connection, which certainly leads to a personal view. A search for a quality of life was more objective but the questions raised could apply to either.
A search of the internet provided many links to articles of a pdf format, many books and ebooks, but I had difficulty in finding five relatively short articles on the subject of quality of life that were not in this format. What I did find was that quality of life is defined in many ways, each dealing with (primarily) the importance of the value that is chosen to be attributed to it. I inferred that most of the articles — if not making a direct connection — were implicitly based on a correlation between quality of life and a requirement for economic prosperity. However, or so it seems to me and regardless of my inference, the term quality of life is generally used in an abstract sense while writing about an answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, for which the answer may be more complicated than 42.
As Monday’s article points out, we each understand about the quality of our own lives and may (generally) be content with it. However, quality of life is an elusive concept, to which I would add that it is also an evolving concept. One that is expected to improve, but quite what an improvement means to all those who may benefit materially but the find that the quality of their life has changed dramatically, I’m not quite sure. I am sure that it is possible in our own minds to rationalise any changes in our quality of life, I’m not sure that such rationalisations are capable of a genuine consensus by those it impacts on.
Quality of life was really prompted by a quality of death decision, or more correctly, a question of who can make decisions about someone else’s death. Tuesday’s article is a story from 2010 dealing quite pragmatically with situations akin to that in Charles’ story. I was surprised to find so many references that linked the quality life with a quality of death. We hotly debate the ethics of such life and death decisions when confronted by them, especially when we can relate to them on the emotional level that the media presents them in. I wonder what it is that enables us to ignore these ethics when we do not choose to be confronted by such life and death decisions.
On Wednesday a link is provided for you to discover your own quality of life — or that desired by you — and where you are likely to achieve it! This measure of well being is also linked to an OECD publication¹.
The society we live in is a materialistic one in which the quality of life (or death) we each experience is conditional upon economic prosperity². While Thursday’s article deals with the measurement of prosperity, I have inferred that in discussing prosperity it inevitable has to deal with the ethics of prosperity. Society (as a whole) clearly lives with the disparities that material prosperity has on a quality of life and largely dismisses any ethical issues. This made me wonder just how far anyone’s ethics on the quality of life³ that they would like to maintain, would extend to those who would impinge on the level of material prosperity it required to maintain it.
On Friday I changed an article from Patheos to one dealing with traits that can lead an improved quality of life. The Patheos article was intended as an amusing piece for Charles and Colin and to discuss. Perhaps I was influenced too much by The New Oxonian’s opening paragraph:
When I first learned about Patheos just over a year ago, I thought the organisation was just another attempt by spiritual seekers to find something to put in place of God’s throne. Something meaningful, spiritual, but not too prickly, because seekers have had it with prickly. Everybody wants religion to be like their favourite pillow, and if it isn’t like that it can just go to hell.
Given the abstractions of quality and life, it seems me that everybody wants quality of life to be like their favourite pillow!
For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.
As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
Into unfathomable life.
Monday 24/7/2017 Quality Of Life: Everyone Wants It, But What Is It? “Quality of life” is subjective and multidimensional, encompassing positive and negative features of life. It’s a dynamic condition that responds to life events: A job loss, illness or other upheavals can change one’s definition of “quality of life” rather quickly and dramatically.
Tuesday 25/7/2017 On Both Sides of the Atlantic, a Debate Over Quality of Life: Two legal cases dealing with the rights of family members to decide life or death for a critically injured loved one have touched off a storm of controversy on both sides of the Atlantic, landing one mother in prison for life, and locking a young couple in battle with the very doctors charged with keeping their infant alive.
Wednesday 26/7/2017 How’s life? There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics – This Index allows you to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.
Thursday 27/7/2017 How to measure prosperity: Which would you prefer to be: a medieval monarch or a modern office-worker? The king has armies of servants. He wears the finest silks and eats the richest foods. But he is also a martyr to toothache. He is prone to fatal infections. It takes him a week by carriage to travel between palaces. And he is tired of listening to the same jesters. Life as a 21st-century office drone looks more appealing once you think about modern dentistry, antibiotics, air travel, smartphones and YouTube.
Friday 28/7/2017 Scientists say these 5 traits are linked with a significantly better quality of life: The findings of the new paper are bolstered by decades of previous research linking well-being and longevity to characteristics like optimism. Read on to see which ones you possess.
¹How’s Life? Measuring Well-being (pdf): How’s Life? describes the essential ingredients that shape people’s well-being in OECD and partner countries. It includes a wide variety of statistics, capturing both material well-being (such as income, jobs and housing) and the broader quality of people’s lives (such as their health, education, work-life balance, environment, social connections, civic engagement, subjective well-being and safety). The report documents the latest evidence on well-being, as well as changes over time, and the distribution of well-being outcomes among different groups of the population.
²The world in 2005 Quality-of-life index (pdf) There have been numerous attempts to construct alternative, non-monetary indices of social and economic wellbeing by combining in a single statistic a variety of different factors that are thought to influence quality of life. The main problem in all these measures is selection bias and arbitrariness in the factors that are chosen to assess quality of life and, even more seriously, in assigning weights to different indicators (measured on a comparable and meaningful scale) to come up with a single synthetic measure. GDP, despite its drawbacks, at least has a clear, substantive meaning and prices are the objective weights for the goods and services that make it up (although there are also very big problems in estimating the purchasing-power parities that have to be used instead of market exchange rates in order to express countries’ incomes in the same currency).
³The Quality of Life (Book) This volume gathers the thoughts of reputed academics in economics, social policy, philosophy, and the social sciences as they scrutinise contentions regarding quality of life and the way in which it is, it can be, and ought to be measured. Such debates roughly boil down to the merits and shortcomings of measuring the quality of human life in terms of utility, as well as to the advantages and pitfalls of alternatives to the utilitarian approach. Philosophical inquiries concerning what constitutes thriving human life, engage with concrete policy‐making and economic considerations in this work, bridging the customary schism between theory and practice. (Tour Oxford Scholarship Online)