Amour and Euthanasia

Episode: 
86

You movie buffs out there have probably  heard of the French  film Amour,  the winner of the Best Film at the 2012 Cannes film festival. Amour centers  on the lives of two 80-year-old retired  music teachers,  George and Anne. Their world is shaken when Anne suffers  a stroke.  After a second stroke,  partial  paralysis, and dementia, Anne wants to end her life. George resists  at first, bu—spoiler alert!—eventually kills her as a presumed  display  of their lifelong  devotion  and love.[1]

In Europe,  euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium,  and Luxembourg. This movie is intended  to provoke  discussion and debate,  especially in its native France where euthanasia is a hotly debated  political  issue. France's new president  Francois  Hollande  publically favors permitting euthanasia. Supporters believe that if France legalizes  euthanasia, it is only a matter of time before the rest of Europe follows suit.[2]

Euthanasia is not the same thing as physician-assisted suicide,  which is legal in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. "Euthanasia" means to intentionally end the life of another  person,  allegedly to end their suffering, and whether  or not they request  it. If they do, it's called "voluntary euthanasia," and if they don't,  it's "non-voluntary eu- thanasia." In the Netherlands, doctors  have legally ended the lives of disabled newborns, without  parental  consent. But spouses or adult children are more often the perpetrators of euthanasia.

Physician-assisted suicide, on the other hand, is by patient  request. The doctor writes a prescription for a lethal drug that the patient  takes at a time they decide.

You have probably  heard the argument  that euthanasia is a compassionate means to end suffering, that it's "mercy  killing." This packs a rhetorical punch, but overlooks  the fact that there are remedies  for this kind of suffer- ing. Advances in palliative care can relieve pain, anxiety,  and depression. When these are under control,  the sick person's  wish for death diminishes.[3] Palliative care is a much better option than "mercy  killing." Despite claims  to the contrary, euthanasia is simply  not medically necessary.

Sadly,  many patients  want to die because  they think they are a burden,  a feeling  shared  by over 50% of patients  who chose physician-assisted suicide  in Washington State last year.[4] But when someone  commits  "mercy killing," it could be because  they do think the patient  is a burden,  or that it's too hard to watch their loved one suffer.

When George takes Anne's life at the end of Amour,  we are meant to think his act of euthanasia is a valid expression of the couple's  love and devotion  to each other.  Genuine  love is far deeper than a movie portrayal. God is the giver of life; it is He who gives and takes it away at His own discretion. In the Christian story,  we are to carry each other's  burden's. This kind of love may mean laying  down my life for someone  else's.

Now that is the kind of love story that should win a prize. 

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1 Richard Porton, "Michael Haneke Film 'Amour' Explores Euthanasia and the Purity of Love,"The Daily Beast, May 23, 2012, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/05/23/michael-haneke-film-amour-explores-euthanasia-and-the-purity-of-love.html (accessed June 18, 2012).

2 Emma Thomasson, "Right-to-Die Movement Sees Gains as World Ages," Reuters, June 12, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/12/us-swiss-assistedsuicide-idUSBRE85B1ES20120612 (accessed June 18, 2012).

3 National Cancer Institute, "Evaluation and Treatment of Suicidal Patients with Cancer," August 19, 2011, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/depression/Patient/page5 (accessed June 22, 2012).

4 Washington State Department of Health, 2011 Death with Dignity Act Report, available at http://www.doh.wa.gov/DataandStatisticalReports/VitalStatisticsData/DeathWithDignityActFormsReceived.aspx (accessed June 22, 2012).

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