Monday, September 07, 2009

Die, Die My Darling


Our move toward physician-assisted suicide springs from the same quest for mastery over mortality that leads us to spend nearly twice as much on health care as any other developed nation.


Did he just claim that wanting to choose when to end your own life represents an attempt to achieve mastery over mortality? Why, yes, it appears he did. But our usual scenario, that of hooking people up to machines indefinitely just to preserve a heartbeat or minimal brain function; that's letting go and letting God, eh?


But the idea that there’s a right to the most expensive health care while you want to be alive isn’t all that different, in a sense, from the idea that there’s a right to swiftly die once life doesn’t seem worth living.

Ohhh, I see. Whether you grasp at every slim thread that offers the possibility of continued existence, or decide to exit on your own terms when life has become intolerable to you, the problem is that you're getting all uppity in the face of the Lord, acting like you have some sort of say in your own fate!


There are many good reasons to oppose assisted suicide. It transforms a healing profession into a killing profession. It encourages relatives to see a loved one’s slow death as a problem to be solved, rather than a trial to be accepted. And as Emanuel noted in his 1997 essay, its “beneficiaries” are far more likely to be suffering from psychological distress than unbearable physical pain.

As many people have wondered in many different contexts, why do conservatives have such a problem grasping the notion of consent? How did we get from voluntary assisted suicide in highly selective cases to forcing everyone from elderly Alzheimer's patients to rebellious teenagers to drink the hemlock? That slippery slope he keeps yammering about seems to have a yawning chasm of illogic dividing it in two.

But no, that's not even all that important now. What is important is to say, hey, Douthat: fuck you, you insufferable, moralizing prig. It's mind-boggling that he seems to imply that, if given the choice, many people would quickly dispose of their terminally ill relatives with no more concern than they would spare for a used tissue. It's a fucking insult to anyone who has been through this scenario to claim that they're just waiting for the all-clear to hurry up and do away with someone who's become a burden to them so they can go merrily on their way. As if this wouldn't be a heart-rending decision for everyone involved. As if knowing in advance the exact time and place of a loved one's death isn't a crushing burden to bear, given all the ominous, momentous significance that attaches itself to ordinary acts following that knowledge. ("This is the last time we'll ever do this together again...")

It's really breathtaking to see how casually this fatuous little fuck suggests that the paramount issues of someone's long, drawn-out death are making sure that the other family members are getting their full allotment of divinely-ordained grief and anguish in order to learn whatever inscrutable lesson Douthat's god wants them to learn, watching a formerly vibrant personality waste away to a insensate bag of bones, and that the dying person is actually in physical agony, rather than getting off easy with mere "psychological distress", such as the kind that might follow the realization that you face a slow, painful decline into oblivion (leaving aside the issue of who assholes like Ross would put in charge of making the distinction, or who the fuck they would think they are to even attempt to do so). Man up, you fucking wimps! Your ancestors had to settle for working like slaves and dying before they turned forty just to provide you spoiled babies with the opportunity to lie in a hospital and whine: "Oh, woe is me, I'm 93 years old and confined to a bed, wearing a diaper while cancer slowly gnaws my vital organs. Boo hoo!"

But I suppose since Ross's god-man suffered on the cross and died for you, the least you could do is linger in mortal agony in remembrance of him.