Hokay, another day, another debate. Euthanasia. Who'da thunk it. Anyway. Eu-Thana-sia. What is it..? Where does it come from..?
Well, 'Eu' means 'good' as in utopia. Uh, eutopia
. For some reason they fucked up the spelling somewhere, and now everyone thinks utopia means 'noplace', but it actually means 'goodplace'. 'Good' is a bit lame though in my book, so let's dub it 'beneficent' instead - a little more vavoom. And 'thana' stemming from the old God of death, as any Sandman-fan will know - Thanatos. 'Sia' gets tacked on to make it doable.
Leaving us with "the practice of beneficent death."
I'm a bit of a bastard on the sly. I'd quite happily dispose of half the populace of the planet without them actually having to be old and infirm. Where you might think that puts me at a disadvantage - being as I am the white knight in this - it doesn't. Being able to think like a bastard allows me to see what would happen if euthanasia did
become an accepted practice in wider society. It ain't pretty.
Allow me to put on a few different hats: The Priest, the Economist, and the Sociologist. The Priest will be first, basically because for me to play the religion card is somewhat of a novelty, and novelty is the spice of life.
Christianity beats around the bush a little, Islam gets right in there. Good 'ole Islam. Basically, God takes a dim view of someone offing themselves, for whatever reason. Go straight to hell, do not pass go. I mean jeeze, how many times in films and Star-Trek have you heard some version of the phrase - "who are we to play God..?" or "Who are we to decide who lives or dies..?" etc. God has a plan, and even if that plan involves putting you through agonising pain, incontinence, and general mental torture, it still counts. Mysterious ways.
Who are we..?
Maybe vegetative state guy had a few skeletons in the cupboard and God just got round to puttin' the whammy on him..? Maybe drooling cancer-grandad did some really bad shit in the war, and is paying the spiritual price..? Who are we to judge..? If nothing else, and Euthanasia does take off, I hope they involve a serious
karmic background check.
Okay, I'm not much of a believer, agnostic at best, so my use of this argument is wildly hypocritical. Except that doesn't matter, because it's not up to me. The world is absolutely full of people who take this argument very very seriously indeed:
As you can see - roughly half
the world pop. follows either Christ or Mohammed. Dat's a lot of people. A lot of people who will get pissed at any Government that decides "Yeah shit, of course you can off Grandad if yer wanna." So, even if I don't really care one way or the other as a spiritual fence-sitter, simply in the interest of an easy life, one with rather less firebombed retirement homes and government buildings than more, I'd have to come down on the uh-uh side of Euthanasia discussions.
The bible also covers assisted suicide as well, in a whimsical way (wtf. is it with the bible and directness anyway..?)
Leviticus 19:14, "Do not put a stumbling block before the blind,"
ie: don't offer to off a guy in pain because you're tempting him with a mortal sin at a point in his life when he's a wee-bit low on willpower.
The other side of God's mysterious way, is miracles. More specifically miracle cures. Pain doesn't kill old people, lack of hope
kills them. Or at least drives them to ask someone else to kill them. But science marches on, often slowly, but somethimes in leaps and bounds. Stem-cell research moves apace, as do longevity drugs. Cancer, while tenacious, may soon prove beatable. There is hope. And euthanasia kinda fucks with that. Gives sad old Grandad an easy option, that maybe he might regret, well okay, he'll be dead, so he won't, but his kids might, or whoever finally pulled the trigger, just that year too early.
Now let's put on the economist hat.
Y'see, the trouble with old people is that their money dies a long time before they do. Economy-wise anyway. You've probably all heard at least one tale concerning some old gimmer found gently decomposing in their bed with a small fortune hidden in the matress. Small point however, the small fortune is in old, out of date bills, and worth exactly squat. Oops.
What I mean is, when you get old, you get cautious. You don't float your cash on some fledgling long-shot company on the stock-exchange, I dunno like uh, Google back in the nineties. You don't buy much stuff. A couple of cans of spam and a bottle of lo-fat mik a week etc. As far as a country's liquid economy goes, old people's cash is a glacier, big, but moves about an inch every century.
Trouble is, the governments don't help matters much. I used to work in the Inheritance-tax offices as a temp way back when. If you die, at least in the UK, any money you've got tucked away over 240,000 - the government gets a whacking great 40%. 240 grand sounds like a lot, but it's not. Say you've got a nice house, and two nice cars, plus a few savings, a life-insurance policy whatever, that'll take you comfortably over 240 thou no problemo. All the government has to do to ensure that they get their cut, is to stop Grandad and Grandma from giving all that cash away to their kids as gifts before they croak. To do this, the law states (or at least did circa 1994) any money over 3000 pounds gifted to a child in the period of seven years before your death counts toward inheritance tax. You literally cannot
give your money away unless you are psychic, or have really pissed off a gipsy at some point, and been given a very time-specific curse.
Also in England, I dunno about the USA, geriatric care is a bitch financially. For example my poor Dad is in a care home right now, living out his twilight years. He became too much for my Mother and Sister to look after. The care home costs one thousand pounds a week. When placing my father there, my mother underwent a means test. The governemnt sponsored care-home has been given the right to my father's pension, his entire savings, the house - everything. The price of his care, until his death, will be removed from that total until something crazy like that last 12,000 pounds or something is reached. By which time the house will have gone, and my mother will be ekeing out her final years in a cardboard box somewhere. Everything my Dad ever worked for will be gone. The nice old government will however consent to cover his bills after that point. Thanks government.
Why am I telling you this..?
Remember the bible quote..?
Leviticus 19:14, "Do not put a stumbling block before the blind,"
There's a small, and very nasty part of my soul that wants my Dad dead. Tomorrow. Luckily, having spent time on a certain philosophy site, I can accept that this nasty part of my soul exists, and its existance does not necessarily make me a bad person. We all have our demons. But, I'm not really in any dire finacial straits. I've a house that's paid for, my kids have enough money for coco-pops and I can keep my wife in shoes. However, imagine I had none
of those things, imagine I had a small business that was failing through lack of capital, loans mounting up in the bank. A sick child, a wife in rags... How much bigger would that demon be then..?
I'd be tempted. I'd trip over that stumbling block quick as a flash, and Dad would be up to his eyeballs in lethal injection before you could even say euthana-
See what I mean..?
And don't forget:
The other thing old people with a lot of money do is really bizarre stuff. Like leave it to their cats. Or marry Anna Nicole Smith. And to be honest, it is their
money, so it does remain up to them to do these things. But exactly how long do you think that old-geezer-cum-playboy-bunny-fancier would have survived if euthanasia was an option for his leech-like children..? Hmm.
And once the precedent was set, would anyone really ever be much motivated to stop it again..? Those that disapproved would simply not euthanize their relatives. Those that did, would be better off financially, if not in conscience. That glacial old-people-money would become liquid young-people-money, roaming the wider economy and buying taxable consumer goods, propping up bars and businesses, paying wages, creating growth... The governement would get its cut anyway, and wouldn't have to fork out so much in healthcare for the destitute. Drinks all round and who gives a shit about the wrinkly corpse in the corner.
Keeping up with the Joneses (who've recently euthanized their relatives and bought new sofas) will drag yet more of the wobblers on the mercy-killing fence down to their side, and that snowball just keeps rolling.
Sociology time. What could be the impact on societies..?
Sad to say, but old people are not valued as much as they were in past. Number one, we've become more obsessed with youth than we used to be recently, and old people... Well, not very youthful. They are like walking momento moris, reminding us with our six-packs and our boob-jobs that try as we might, we too one day will be a decrepit wreck that no-one will sleep with. And number two, the elderly's role as the traditional reposit of wisdom has diminished - time was when ole Grandad knew a thing or two, and could be relied upon to offer up some vital bit of guidance that might well save the day. But not any more. Life and society moves so quickly now that what Grandad knows is out of date. "Hey Grandad - how do I get facebook to work..?" "Hey Grandad, the engine-management system on my BMW's on the blink..." "My new 3D Tv's picture is poorly resolved..." "How do I get ahead in viral marketing..?"
Er. Okay, maybe affairs of the heart... Love never goes out of date. But marriage does. And bringing up kids. And sex has just gotten massively kinky. Grandad doesn't know even how to spell clitoris, let alone where the damn thing is.
The gap between the old, and the young, ever widens. And this is bad. Families grow more alienated than ever. Throw in on top of that euthanasia and what have you got..? Scared
old people. Involuntary mercy-killing..? Yikes.
I forget which book I read it in, but there was a story about a Sociology professor who sent 6 of his students to sanitoriums and had them try to get admitted as schitzophrenic - he gave them a list of symptoms to exhibit. Anyway, they all got themselves successfully committed. Then he told them to revert back to their normal selves, and try to convince the staff at those sanitoriums that they were fine, and should be released. None of them were. In the end the prof. had to go and spring them himself.
The moral of the story: Getting commited is easy, getting uncommited is hard. Anyone old who has one senior-moment too many, without the safety-net of a family with their best interests at heart... Is potentially one dead son of a bitch.
You know what I'd do..? If I got old, and a touch doolally..? I'd pack my bags, along with my matress full of cash, and fuck off somewhere which didn't have pro-euthanasia laws. Just in case.
Eh, enough I think.
In conclusion. The main thing I'm trying to drive home is that while euthanasia, in its purest snowy-white moral form of a merciful death, may save the pain of the few, it will open the way for a terrible amount of abuse, corruption, familial division and general religious-fanatic-based mayhem for the many, and, as Spock said,
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Just say no.