If one knows their remaining time on earth is relatively short, what can a person do if they wish to sacrifice themselves for a good cause? A few examples might be:

  1. Burn down a known drug house
  2. Sacrifice one's self testifying against mob boss who will likely try to kill you.

What other examples are there where a terminal illness comes into contact with a sacrifice of an extreme nature?

Of course having no living relatives, etc., makes this much easier.

  • 2
    When you burn down that drug house, will you roast the people who live there any customers who might be present? Why don't you burn down the local pharmacy, they sell drugs too. What is the difference between a licit and an illicit drug? Isn't it often a matter of historical contingency? Didn't Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine? Didn't alcohol used to be illegal? Will you burn down weed dispensaries in states where weed is legal? What if a fireman dies of smoke inhalation putting out the fire you started? What if the fire jumps to the house next door and burns down their house too?
    – user4894
    Oct 30, 2022 at 2:57
  • It certainly would possible to warn those inside to flee. No lives need be lost. Oct 30, 2022 at 3:08
  • 3
    Setting a major fire in a residential neighborhood is not a sane thing to do, ethics aside. And we're all going to be dead soon enough. We're all terminal. What stops anyone from taking the law into their own hands without regard for the consequences to innocent bystanders and first responders? And again, what do you care what drugs people choose to take? Will you burn down the local liquor store because some people become alcoholics or drive drunk? What I'm sensing here is a certain lack of thoughtfulness regarding your theoretical actions.
    – user4894
    Oct 30, 2022 at 4:03
  • 2
    One knows that their time on earth is relatively short once they reach self-conscious age, terminal illness is not required. And applying themselves to a good cause does not require a sacrifice of extreme nature, most of the time other means are more effective, even with terminal illness.
    – Conifold
    Oct 30, 2022 at 4:29
  • Set aside the drug house example then. Testifing against a dangerous criminal is not something one can do when senile. Maybe that is a better example. Feel free to think of more non-violent examples. Oct 30, 2022 at 16:34

4 Answers 4


Well, I would sacrifice myself to some act that was ethical.

Certainly the examples you gave are not.

I would do nothing that would create a negative view of me after I'm no longer me. Of course, I would be dead and have no worries.

First, get your house in order, second, donate the remaining time to a worthy cause or charity.

  • I am unsure how deciding to testify against a mob boss is unethical. Oct 30, 2022 at 2:40
  • @user1745937. Few such actions are 'all good' or 'all bad'. Eg. What would the possible consequences of testifying be for your friends and family? Oct 30, 2022 at 10:24
  • That is why I suggested the subject be without family. Oct 30, 2022 at 16:36
  • @user1745937. Oh. True. Missed that. Oct 31, 2022 at 1:11
  • Omitting family negated the whole real world scenario. To make it “easier” just sacrifice your life saving someone from drowning.
    – Duck
    Oct 31, 2022 at 14:07

The research suggests, psychaedelics: Psychedelics in Palliative Care. These don't just benefit the terminally ill person taking them, but those around them. It is thought by inducing neuroplasticity, they allow people to reframe what they are going through, during a traumatic and intense time.

The end of a life is a last chance to settle feuds & dischords. This has been a major concern cross-culturally across the eras, & speaks to concern with leaving a legacy of unfinished business. I'd say this is the top priority, healing rifts, and also unfinished projects or unrealised potential (that there is time for). These are associated with the restless dead (very appropriate for Halloween). We should aim to die having made our peace.

Wanting to go out in a blaze of glory Gran Torino style, seeking that, rather than finding it necessary, doesn't seem healthy to me. Suicide bombers presumably think they are doing good, but things that require violence rather than the law, generally just lead to more violence.

Leaving a lasting impact, and being remembered well also, is something there are rarely shortcuts to, or someone else would likely have already taken them. Discussed here: What are some philosophical works that explore constructing meaning in life from an agnostic or atheist view?


There are lots of people in crisis -- homeless shelters, battered women's shelters, kids with learning disabilities, kids with just bad home environments. All of them could use volunteers.

There are lonely people too. In all walks of life. Most common in senior care facilities and hospitals, but in every neighborhood and profession you will find lonely people, who would benefit from friendship.

If you really want to engage in a fatal activity, there are two current active threats to democracy in the world -- the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the rise of right wing thug movements. You could volunteer in Ukraine for a combat unit. You could also join the Proud Boys or some similar movement as a snitch.

If you didn't want to go for direct violence, Ukraine takes volunteers in the rear area rebuild activities. OR you could join an anti-fascist group, and advocate for democracy, demonstrating and publicizing against the Proud Boys and hate agendas.

  • I would suggest that fighting global warming and contributing factors would be the most moral act in our current state, as solutions would likely propagate to other worthy areas in the process
    – benbyford
    Oct 30, 2022 at 15:38
  • The AGW issue is the most intractable concern I know of. We need to: a) solve a worldwide tragedy of the commons problem, b) overcome our human inclination not to undertake sacrifices unless they are absolutely and undeniably necessary, c) Learn to manage Gaia, d) reduce our population and displacement of ecosystems significantly. The questioner asked what SHORT TERM things they could do. Working on a very long term, and possibly intractable problem for a very short time -- does not strike me at least as a useful suggestion. But go for it yourself.
    – Dcleve
    Oct 30, 2022 at 16:01
  • Dcleve is closer to the mark. The AGW battle can be fought the non-terminal. Oct 30, 2022 at 16:48

Of the two choices you mentioned, I believe you need an option. But before you take one, you should think about the consequences and all the possibilities that might happen. If such anti-social activities are likely to sprout even after your sacrifice, then your sacrifice will be in vain. Often dirty politics is the root cause of such anti-social activities.

Then philanthropy with an emphasis on getting rid of anti-social activities might be a silent revolution you can follow without anger. https://asitis.com/2/63.html

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