A "Duty to Die"?
- From: jose el fontanero <josefsoplar@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 11 May 2010 08:05:02 -0700 (PDT)
A "Duty to Die"?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
One of the many fashionable notions that have caught on among some of
the intelligentsia is that old people have "a duty to die," rather
than become a burden to others.
This is more than just an idea discussed around a seminar table.
Already the government-run medical system in Britain is restricting
what medications or treatments it will authorize for the elderly.
Moreover, it seems almost certain that similar attempts to contain
runaway costs will lead to similar policies when American medical care
is taken over by the government.
Make no mistake about it, letting old people die is a lot cheaper than
spending the kind of money required to keep them alive and well. If a
government-run medical system is going to save any serious amount of
money, it is almost certain to do so by sacrificing the elderly.
There was a time-- fortunately, now long past-- when some desperately
poor societies had to abandon old people to their fate, because there
was just not enough margin for everyone to survive. Sometimes the
elderly themselves would simply go off from their family and community
to face their fate alone.
But is that where we are today?
Talk about "a duty to die" made me think back to my early childhood in
the South, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One day, I was
told that an older lady-- a relative of ours-- was going to come and
stay with us for a while, and I was told how to be polite and
considerate towards her.
She was called "Aunt Nance Ann," but I don't know what her official
name was or what her actual biological relationship to us was. Aunt
Nance Ann had no home of her own. But she moved around from relative
to relative, not spending enough time in any one home to be a real
At that time, we didn't have things like electricity or central
heating or hot running water. But we had a roof over our heads and
food on the table-- and Aunt Nance Ann was welcome to both.
Poor as we were, I never heard anybody say, or even intimate, that
Aunt Nance Ann had "a duty to die."
I only began to hear that kind of talk decades later, from highly
educated people in an affluent age, when even most families living
below the official poverty level owned a car or truck and had air-
It is today, in an age when homes have flat-panelled TVs, and most
families eat in restaurants regularly or have pizzas and other meals
delivered to their homes, that the elites-- rather than the masses--
have begun talking about "a duty to die."
Back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann, nobody in our family had ever gone
to college. Indeed, none had gone beyond elementary school. Apparently
you need a lot of expensive education, sometimes including courses on
ethics, before you can start talking about "a duty to die."
Many years later, while going through a divorce, I told a friend that
I was considering contesting child custody. She immediately urged me
not to do it. Why? Because raising a child would interfere with my
But my son didn't have a career. He was just a child who needed
someone who understood him. I ended up with custody of my son and,
although he was not a demanding child, raising him could not help
impeding my career a little. But do you just abandon a child when it
is inconvenient to raise him?
The lady who gave me this advice had a degree from the Harvard Law
School. She had more years of education than my whole family had, back
in the days of Aunt Nance Ann.
Much of what is taught in our schools and colleges today seeks to
break down traditional values, and replace them with more fancy and
fashionable notions, of which "a duty to die" is just one.
These efforts at changing values used to be called "values
clarification," though the name has had to be changed repeatedly over
the years, as more and more parents caught on to what was going on and
objected. The values that supposedly needed "clarification" had been
clear enough to last for generations and nobody asked the schools and
colleges for this "clarification."
Nor are we better people because of it.
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