As someone who is 80 but not yet a vegetable — though I could be when I’m 81 — I happen to think about euthanasia quite often and that is should b back pretty soon. “Brought back?”, you might ask. Yes, because every culture in the past practised it. The prosperity resulting from the industrial revolution has pushed the necessity completely beyond our minds and closed the window in the modern culture.
I’m prompted this morning by reading in this week’s Economist of the Japanese practice of ubasute. According to the paper, ubasute was “the mythical ancient custom of dumping Grandma on a mountainside to die.” M’mm . . . there was nothing “mystical” about this sort of euthanasia in older times anymore than a multiplicity of different methods all round the world when times got too tough for feeding all of the members of one’s family or the group through a poor season.
We’re facing an avalanche of old people, now surviving because of modern medical procedures or drugs. Increasing numbers of them are becoming senile and drained of anything that can be called a personality. Some will still be human, but unbearably so as a daily burden — physically or emotionally — to be cared for by immediate relatives. We need to open the window of euthanasia so we can feel more comfortable about talking about the topic. We need to think of humane methods and the criteria of decision-making — much as most of us do about our pets.