My husband and I watched You Don't Know Jack over the weekend. Apparently it was an HBO special in 2010 that I heard about watching the Golden Globes earlier in the year. Al Pacino plays Jack Kevorkian. I think they would have had to try pretty hard to make this a bad film because the topics of doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia are complicated and intriguing.
On the one hand, if you are in constant agony and have no quality of life left and there is no chance or improvement it seems humane to allow that person a choice in how they die. Inmates sentenced to death often get a choice in how they die. We find it humane to end the suffering of animals when nothing more can be done. It makes sense on many levels.
On the other hand, something feels wrong about it. Most of our lives we spend fighting for life. We fight against diseases, we try to control the dangers around us, if someone or something threatens our lives we instinctively fight against it. Suicide is so contrary to that. But there is no shortage of serious, seemingly insurmountable mental and physical challenges. I've certainly had deeply dark days, as I'm sure all of you have as well. Still I find it so hard to imagine choosing to end my life before my body or someone else's body imposes it on me. But that doesn't necessarily mean others shouldn't be able to come to a different conclusion and be able to carry out their decision under the safety and supervision of a caring doctor. But then I think about all the shitty doctors I've run into in my life and I can't help but be kind of fearful about what that means for physician assisted suicide. But that could be applied to anything, Shitty doctors can perform surgeries poorly but that doesn't mean none of us should ever have surgery.
I also wonder if allowing this sort of thing could become a slippery slope. One of the arguments against Jack's methods in the film was that it could become a cost cutting measure instead of intended purpose of being a humane and dignified end to life. What if doctors were inclined to identify someone as being terminal and start pushing these sorts of life ending options. It would save a great deal of money if someone were to choose death over life. Those with means and strong family support could easily prevent this from happening to them, but what about all the people with neither. The people who don't have access to preventive care and can't pay the ER bills they incur. It would be naive to believe this wouldn't impact those living in poverty differently than it would impact the wealthy. Plus, doctors simply can't always know for certain who can recover from what.
But shouldn't we be allowed to choose to save that money, just as we are allowed to choose whether or not we want to be resuscitated or put on life support if anything should happen. It seems sort of arbitrary that we are allowed to make that life ending choice but not the other. Abortion is legal, is that really all that different? Just because technology and modern medicine can keep us artificially alive doesn't mean that it is always the right thing to do. Or is it? Should we always do what we can?
It can't be wrong to let people die who are dying, can it?. No matter what we do, we are all going to die eventually. It is just as natural as breathing. These issues are so complicated. The toughest part about choosing a side is that both sides are right and both sides are wrong - so nether side is right and neither side is wrong. How can we ever possibly expect the courts or the legislature to regulate this.
I don't have the answers but the discussion is fascinating. Have you seen the movie? What do you think of all of this?