Dear Dr. Ted,

The Holocaust, or the annihilation of millions of Jews, Roma people and physically and mentally disabled, that spread outward from Nazi Germany was labeled by the citizens at the time as “mercy killings”. “Million Dollar Baby,” directed by Clint Eastwood is a film about a man, Frankie (Clint Eastwood), training a female boxing champion named Maggie (Hilary Swank). When the Maggie becomes crippled after an unfair fight, Frankie is forced to make a difficult decision: allow the former boxing champion to live in pain or suffering, or help her to end her life with her consent. Goebbels used propaganda films to influence the murder of millions to create a superior race; Clint Eastwood created a film to tell a story about a man who has to make a heart wrenching decision for the sake of his beloved prodigy. Goebbels proposed murder amongst the unwilling, Frankie in “Million Dollar Baby” respects his loved one’s autonomy thus letting her die. Now it should be perfectly clear to those a bit hazy on the subject, that the comparison of “Million Dollar Baby” to a Neo-Nazi Movie is a gross exaggeration and an offensive interpretation of Clint Eastwood’s film.
All human patients have the power to make their own decisions (if they are capable) within their stays at hospitals. This power is called autonomy and it is immensely important to respect. As the former boxing champion lay motionless in her hospital bed, a ventilator tube was going directly into her throat for she could not breathe on her own. One of her legs had to be amputated because it became gangrenous, because she was unable to shift her weight. Soon after, she asked her manager, Frankie, to relieve her of her suffering. When Frankie refused, she attempted to “fight her way out” of the world as she had fought her way in by biting her tongue causing her to almost bleed to death. Because her manager did not initially respect her autonomy, he caused his boxing wonder to suffer through more pain than she was already in.
Many argue that allowing a patient to die could lead to a “slippery slope” similar to that of the “mercy killings” in Nazi Germany. But like in certain European countries, allowing and/or assisting a patient to die would require consent and would never be encouraged or forced like it was in the Holocaust. But realistically, active euthanasia needs to be regulated. How does one decide who is allowed to die? I am not a physician, but to me it would be cruel to euthanize the mentally handicapped and those with mental illnesses because they are incapable of making such an important decision. Plus those with mental illnesses such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder have the benefit of being cured or of being alleviated of their sickness. Those with spinal cord or other incurable physical illnesses do not, and for many of these people, time does not heal their misery.
You accuse Clint Eastwood of siding with the Nazi viewpoint, “death is better than disability.” However, this is all subjective because disability comes in many forms. Technically someone who is morbidly obese is disabled. Also, someone like Chris Hill, who is paralyzed from the chest down, who cannot “piss or shit” (Hill) without help and whose condition is permanent is disabled as well. Someone like Chris Hill could have been actively euthanized with accordance to his autonomy. I do not say this as a statement of empathy; Chris Hill states this as his only solution. However, he was forced to take his own life. But then there are people like Alison Davis, who suffer from spina bifida. She has always been bound to a wheelchair and her health has been, at best, uncertain. But if one were to suggest to her that she would be better off dead, there would be nothing she would disagree with more. Alison and Chris were in similar physical states, but very different emotional states. Alison decided to fight the odds; Chris could not bear to stay alive any longer for he lacked a quality of life, in his opinion. So why did the doctors respect Alison’s autonomy and ignore Chris’s? Because, like you, they think they can decide the morality of their patients’ decisions. Here’s something you might comprehend. Man has free will, not the will of Doctor’s: of medicine or theology.
Often times, those with incurable physical illnesses suffer and their lives are unnecessarily prolonged by ventilators and feeding tubes. They continue to linger on until the bliss of death reaches them. So why is it then, if the patient wants to die of course, that doctors must force patients to go against their autonomy by allowing them to suffer? In the Hippocratic Oath, doctors pledge to do no harm. However, by forcing a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease to live against his will by prolonging his pain and suffering, doctors are doing something they have pledged not to do. Often times by keeping patients alive, doctors do more harm than good. Yes, patients should be encouraged to fight back and to give it their all, just as your wife is doing; but as patients should not be forced to die, they should not be forced to live. And although you are a doctor of theology, there is no qualification you possess that allows you to determine the morality of another individual’s decision. Save those moral questions for yourself.