Dear Dr. Ted Baehr,

I do not agree with the parallels that you draw between “Million Dollar Baby” and the Nazi movie “I Accuse” because I believe there is a difference between murder and patient-requested euthanasia, just like I believe there is a distinction between “mercy killing” and the mass extermination of Jews and other minorities that happened during the Holocaust. “Million Dollar Baby” is a thought-provoking film about a woman’s personal decision to end a life that she thought was no longer worth living and not a propaganda piece intended to promote the mass execution of disabled people. Any movie ever produced has the ability to influence the opinions of its audience, and I do not understand how “Million Dollar Baby” could be similar to Nazi propaganda because it tells a personal story about an individual’s decision regarding her own life, and lets the viewer draw his or her own conclusions about whether Maggie’s choice was right or wrong.

Ever since the development of new life-prolonging technologies such as the ventilator, euthanasia has been a painfully controversial issue. In some situations, leaving a ventilator plugged in can be a form of torture for a disabled patient who used enjoy a healthy, active life, and in other cases unplugging the ventilator of a disabled patient who values their quality of life amounts to murder. There is no one better to judge whether a life is worth living than the person who is actually living that life, and “Million Dollar Baby” is a perfect example of how difficult it is to apply one individual’s situation to society as a whole. It is when that happens that the Rush Limbaugh “million dollar euthanasia movie” quote starts to make more sense to me.

In your movie review, you call “mercy killing” a “euphemism for murder” but the intent of the person doing the killing in each case is completely different. Frankie refuses Maggie’s request when she first mentions that she wants to die and he spends a long time struggling over whether helping Maggie to end her life would be morally and ethically acceptable. He is not portrayed as a cold-blooded killer, and Maggie is of sound mind when she asks him to end her life. To call Frankie’s action murder is correct according to the dictionary, but the word “murder” does not reveal all the details of the situation. “Million Dollar Baby” does not romanticize or glorify euthanasia, but instead it shows how the thought of killing Maggie eats away at Frankie and reduces him to a state of desperation and uncertainty. Maggie does not smile while Frankie injects adrenaline into her IV and he does not feel joy at the thought of ending her life. The ending of the movie is a resolution and not a celebration.

I can understand how “Million Dollar Baby” would be offensive to other quadriplegics living full, happy lives but I do not believe claims that the movie is the equivalent of a Nazi propaganda film. Like you, I value life, and I have a relative who is on chemotherapy just like your wife is, but I am not worried about “Million Dollar Baby” sending society down the “slippery slope” towards another Holocaust. “Million Dollar Baby” is controversial, but any movie released today involving the worth of a human life is controversial, and without discussing euthanasia and end-of-life issues no one would be prepared to handle ethical dilemmas when they occur. It is easy for some viewers to hate the movie because of the ending, but in my opinion the film’s main focus is not on the act of murder itself or even on euthanasia. "Million Dollar Baby" tells how a deadly accident fits into the context of one boxer's life and how her friend and trainer struggles with her desire to end a life that she sees as not worth living.

Sincerely,
Gavin