The United States, Pro-Life as Sickness

When visiting Brussels, Belgium, Engelhart speaks to Wim Distelmans, an oncologist and euthanasia proponent, about whether assisted death should be offered to more people in the United States. “It’s a developing country,” he tells her. “You shouldn’t try to implement a law of euthanasia in countries where there is no basic healthcare.” A reader wonders, then, what it means to assert dignity within circumstances that do not do the same….

The Inevitable is interested in dignity and how people define it, but it does not ask so explicitly whether the state, and the laws it creates, can recognize people’s dignity in the first place. If our systems of governance fail to care for so many — and kill others on death row and in the streets — can they be trusted to control the choice to die? If a “developing country” without universal health care did offer wide access to assisted death, one wonders whether its use could make that country’s ills more obvious, more urgent, less ignorable…

…“Philip came to think that efforts to suppress rational suicide were ‘a sign of an increasingly sick society,’” Katie Engelhart writes. “They were a sign that, maybe, society wasn’t so confident in its reasons for insisting on life.”

-Elena Saavedra Buckley, “The Dignified Exit.Los Angeles Book Review. July 23, 2021.

Open Question: What is dignity, and what does it mean to die with it?

Open Question: Is the United States a developing country, from a moral, maturity or other perspective?

I has never occurred to me to think of the United States as a developing country. But, really, when you say something like “American Taliban”, you know exactly who that refers to and what that means. What is the difference? Does living in the “richest country in the world” make any difference if you can’t afford to see the doctor you need? How is that different than having no doctor to see at all?

Modern Dying

“I have heard it said that modern dying means dying more, dying over longer periods, enduring more uncertainty, subjecting ourselves and our families to more disappointments and despair. As we are enabled to live longer, we are also condemned to die longer. In that case, it should come as no surprise that some of us seek out the means to bring a dignified end to the ordeal, while we are still capable of deciding matters for ourselves. Where is the crime in that? A sorrowful goodbye, a chance to kiss each beloved face for the last time before sleep descends, pain retreats, dread dissolves, and death is defeated by death itself.”

—Cory Taylor, Dying: A Memoir. (Portland, OR: Tin House Books, 2017), 140-141.