Well, that didn't take long. Readers will remember my post on David Brooks's terminally clueless insinuation that we need to do something (he didn't seem sure quite what) to engineer the quicker disappearance of all those parasites, um, I mean, people with Alzheimer's disease who are costing so much money by not dying faster (darn it!).
Now, in a piece that has some things in common with Brooks's, we have a clearer answer: Kill them.
In an article filled with disturbing bigotry bizarrely melded with eco-wacko nature worship, April Bogle, director of public relations for Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion (!), tells us why the rainforest makes her heart so much happier than a nursing home. The rainforest smells nice, and the nursing home doesn't. (She just got back from visiting the rainforest on her summer vacation.) The rainforest has pretty sounds of bird song, and the nursing home doesn't. The rainforest is, she rhapsodizes, "a highly complex system of interconnectedness and interdependency that functions perfectly..." And all of this loveliness is possible because, in the rain forest, nobody old and smelly and dying is allowed to live. Instead, everything dies if it can't manage to survive on its own, and most things are eaten, by, she informs us, four different kinds of vultures. Takin' out the trash, y'see.
Like Brooks, Bogle stops and informs us that of course she isn't suggesting that we send our elderly out into the forest to die and be eaten. No, no, nothing quite so brutal. Instead, she advocates an "enhanced advance directive." The "enhancement" apparently refers to the inclusion of what Bogle slyly calls "assisted suicide." Only this so-called "suicide" would be inflicted upon people who are "past the point of no return" mentally. In other words, it wouldn't be suicide at all. It would be euthanasia, carried out upon the mentally incompetent on the basis of something signed before, possibly long before, something that said, "Kill me later."
Herewith, some predictions. First prediction: Within a decade, in America, we will see elderly people being directly and actively euthanized without repercussions. I predict that this will be done to mentally incompetent people who (for whatever this is worth) could not have consented at the time of their deaths. What this means is that at least in some jurisdictions, and perhaps throughout the fruited plain, such euthanasia will become functionally legal. ("Functionally legal" meaning that whether or not it is formally legalized--which may also happen--the practical situation will be the same as if it were legal.) Note here that I'm well aware that elderly and disabled people are already over-medicated and dehydrated to death, murdered in that fashion, frequently in America. I'm talking about the next step--to direct euthanasia either by pills (if they can swallow), lethal injection, or some other method such as suffocation.
We're definitely seeing a push for this. Brooks's incohate article and Bogle's direct call for "enhanced advance directives" are two instances. So is the Hemlock Society's statement that people who face the "dilemma" of family members with dementia should have the option of killing them. (About which more below.) Last year I wrote a post about a man in Britain who killed his wife, who suffered from dementia, with an axe. It was disturbing to see that some readers found it difficult to say what would have been wrong with his killing her in a less gruesome way, though they did boggle at the axe. And one clinic in the Netherlands is "investigating the feasibility" of "helping" dementia patients to die.
Second prediction: The direct murder of dementia patients who cannot be rationally consenting at the time of their death will be incorrectly labeled by its advocates "assisted suicide" instead of euthanasia. This will make it seem more acceptable, because it will help them to ignore the fact that, whatever the person said previously, at the time of his death he was not actually choosing to die nor in any sense whatsoever killing himself. (Killing mentally incompetent people and calling it "suicide" is just about paradigmatic of the "choice devours itself" phenomenon. We start with the "choice" of suicide and then decide that it's so wonderful that we have to bestow it even upon people who are not mentally competent to choose, covering ourselves with the fig leaf that they said previously that they wanted to be killed later.) Legally, morally, and rationally, for the sake of sheer mental clarity, this should not be called "suicide" of any sort, assisted or otherwise, but it will be, and that will ease the transition to the situation in my first prediction.
I'm cheating in making this second prediction, because in a sense it isn't a prediction anymore. It's already happening. When George Brodigan, an Alzheimer's patient, was fed a lethal dose of alcohol and pills by his son, Bruce Brodigan, the entire news media referred to this as an "assisted suicide" because Brodigan, Jr., told us that Brodigan, Sr., had had a conversation with him (at some point) in which he told him this was what he wanted. Compassion & Choices (aka the Hemlock Society) clearly approved of Bruce's act and merely said that he should have had a "peaceful, legal way out of the dilemma of advancing dementia." In other words, Hemlock and the news media all regarded this as an assisted suicide, and Hemlock wanted it to be legal. And, of course, Brogle herself refers to the murder of dementia patients as "assisted suicide" if committed in accordance with an "enhanced advance directive."
My prediction is that this incorrect usage will become increasingly common and that it will be used as cover when prediction #1 comes true. It may even feature in some explicit legislation that fulfills prediction #1.
We need to be saying, now, loudly that all this hate-talk about the elderly (represented by Bogle's article and by Brooks's "bags of skin" comment) is utterly unacceptable. We need to be saying that actively killing mentally incompetent patients is not "suicide." And we need to be prepared to resist--wherever the matter intersects with our station in life--the push toward deliberate killing of the innocent under any circumstances.
(P.S. If I may say so, Philosophy students especially should consider whether they are compromising in their ethics classes in response to professorial pressure or in response to the feeling that the murder of the disabled must be treated as a live option.)
HT for the Bogle story, Secondhand Smoke