March 2, 2005


Million Dollar Missed Opportunity: What Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning movie could have done. (Wesley J. Smith, 03/01/2005, Weekly Standard)

The makers of Million Dollar Baby and the Academy members who voted it Best Picture probably believe the film was innovative and courageous. But depicting mercy killing as compassionate and loving has been used as a plot devise so often that it has become a cliché. Indeed, not only have most contemporary television dramas--ER, Law & Order, even Star Trek Voyager--resorted to mercy killing as a plot point, but so did The Sea Inside, the Spanish movie Academy members voted this year's Best Foreign Film.

Nor is this a story line of recent vintage. Indeed, in the past movies were made as explicit propaganda to promote the legalization and legitimacy of active euthanasia. The most notorious of these is the 1939 German movie, I Accuse (Ich Klage An), a film that, with Goebbles's blessing, both promoted voluntary euthanasia as well as the propriety of killing disabled infants--to blockbuster success at the box office.

It is striking and disturbing how similar the plotline of Million Dollar Baby is to the voluntary euthanasia story in I Accuse. [...]

[W]hile it is true that many people who become quadriplegic later in life become
very depressed and suicidal--like Maggie in the movie--studies show that such existential despair is not usually permanent. Indeed, one medical report published several years ago found that the level of depression in people disabled later in life to be no different five years post-injury than that found among the able bodied. Moreover, people suffering the emotional agony that Maggie experienced in the film can be treated for their depression and their suicides prevented--without being force-sedated.

The most important point omitted from the film is that people with quadriplegia, when they are not merely warehoused in a nursing home, live very rich and satisfying lives. That Eastwood never seems to have given this matter any thought is odd, given that Christopher Reeve demonstrated famously that becoming quadriplegic does not mean that meaningful life ends.

Likewise, it's comparable to Birth of a Nation in its bigotry towards the other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 2, 2005 4:03 PM

FWIW, she would not have been eligible for physician-assisted suicide under Oregon law. The depression would have disqualified her.

And I agree with your implicit assessment that Chief Bromden's act was less objectionable.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 2, 2005 5:07 PM


Anyone who wants to die is by definition too depressed to be competent.

Posted by: oj at March 2, 2005 5:30 PM

"That's some catch, that Catch-22..."

Posted by: Just John at March 2, 2005 6:27 PM

Caught it the first time, OJ, but don't buy it. You and I ... and certainly The Wife ... know the difference between clinical depression and terminal illness.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 2, 2005 7:12 PM

Yes, but the suicidal person doesn't.

Posted by: oj at March 2, 2005 7:35 PM

Nice bit of sophistry, OJ. Do you really believe that anyone who wishes a quick and painless death is mentally ill, no matter the circumstances?

Not believing in the conscious afterlife, I do not aspire to be Christ on the cross.

I do believe you have have the soul of a heretic. (Like Christ, of course, and Eric Hoffer.) It's just that the orthodoxy you challenge is secular rationalism. And you're having altogether too much fun with it.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 2, 2005 8:04 PM

That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about people who demand that others kill them. I have no problem with the truly terminal killing themselves or their death being hastened somewhat by the necessary palliative measures.

Posted by: oj at March 2, 2005 8:14 PM

What you have "no problem with" is essentially the spirit of the Oregon law. That law then goes one step further by allowing a willing physician to participate overtly in the process ... as the authorizer of potentially-lethal palliatives. We both know that it happens covertly every day.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 2, 2005 9:59 PM

The difference is between suicide, murder, and pain relief.

Posted by: oj at March 2, 2005 10:22 PM

But it is OK when Jehovah's Witnesses do it.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 2, 2005 11:02 PM

The nub of the issue is whether knowingly providing the means for a terminal patient to take his own life amounts to murder.

This may be one of those instances where the law is a fool. If it is murder, then a considerable number of talented and compassionate physicians are murderers. I say it can be a moral course of action and should not always be illegal.

At the same time, I am open to an argument that such arrangements should remain covert. Would seem hypocritical, though.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 2, 2005 11:10 PM


No one is arguing about them taking their own.

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2005 1:08 AM


They don't.

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2005 1:09 AM