Dear Dr. Theodore Baehr,
Million Dollar Baby is a far cry from a Nazi propaganda movie. It is ridiculous to suggest that the portrayal of one woman’s struggle with an irreversible handicap and personal choice to end her life is comparable to Hitler ordering the murder of all mentally and physically disabled. The only person in the film who makes the decision that Maggie’s life is not worth living, is Maggie herself, which is as it should be. All other people in the film try to prevent Maggie from ending her life and attempt to convince her that life is worth living, until, after multiple painful suicide attempts, the man who knows and loves her better than anyone else gives in to her demands, and consents to end her pain for her. Maggie was a strong and intelligent woman who fought her whole life to live, and in the end, fought to die. It was her autonomy to do so, and this scenario is nothing close to the forced deaths of thousands of handicapped peoples at the hands of the Nazis.
This film does not promote a message that “death is better than disability,” it merely tells the story of one woman who decides that this sentence is true for herself, and herself alone. Maggie had been full of life and energy; constantly active and fighting throughout the film, and the loss of this type of life which she deemed worth living led her to seek death as an escape from suffering. She did not rush into the decision, and even after painful botched suicide attempts she persisted to say that death was what she wanted. Maggie clearly made an informed decision about what she was willing to live with, and Frankie, the man who carried out the assisted suicide, was a reluctant participant in the act doing what was best for a person he loved, from the view of that person’s eyes.
One problem I do have with this film is that the euthanasia was carried out by a man completely removed from the medical field. It is certainly a problem to allow any one person to kill another, even with consent; random people cannot be killing their ill or handicapped loved ones in a state of complete chaos. Though cases such as Maggie’s show the story of an informed woman making a personal decision, the euthanasia should still be carried out by a trained professional. It cannot be allowable for random people to assist suicide; it must be a medical process involving both a consenting doctor and a mentally stable patient using their own autonomy to decide to end their life.
You claim that “Love should never trump conscience.” How could Frankie have lived with himself had he allowed Maggie to suffer through the rest of her life in a sedated state she was in so that she could not try to kill herself again? Perhaps what you say is typically true, but I believe it is true that when you love someone you will allow them to follow their personal conscious. Frankie did not believe Maggie should end her life at first, but over time he saw her determination to do so and witnessed her suffering in her permanent frozen condition and allowed his love for her to help him overcome his own conscious to do what was ultimately best for her, by her own opinion.
Each person has the right to make their own decisions, and Million Dollar Baby simply tells the story of one woman who chose to end her life and the man who consented to help her. Whether you agree or disagree with the choices that each of these people made, the movie is still not comparable to Nazi propaganda as it certainly neither promotes nor glorifies assisted suicide and comes nowhere near encouraging the public to hand over its handicapped despite their personal choices and commit mass “mercy killings.” The film merely reveals the struggles and turmoil which are wrapped up in the morally ambiguous dilemma that is euthanasia and discloses the way in which one woman and a man who loves her choose to deal with these issues. Also, the film leaves people free to form their own conclusions; you do not have to agree with what Frankie did.