Should Old People Kill Themselves to Keep from Burdening Everyone?
This is a question some liberals are starting to ask.
The first time you see something like this, you go, “Wow, that guy obviously has issues.”
However, when you see it again, you start to go, “Hmmm, there are actually people who think like this. Maybe a lot more than I thought.”
This may seem mind-boggling to you, but it’s not as new as it may seem. It’s just that most of the time, people aren’t crass enough to just outright suggest that old people kill themselves so that the rest of us won’t be burdened with them. In the more tribal days of human existence, when things got extremely desperate, under certain circumstances the old might be sent off to die:
Senilicide (the killing of old people) was never universal among Eskimos. It was common in some parts of their range but more so among the Inuit (Greenland to Northern Alaska) than the Yuit (western and southwestern Alaska). Even among the Inuit, some groups found the custom repugnant.
Where it was practiced, senilicide was rare except during famines. As long as there was enough food to go around, everyone got their share, including the relatively unproductive. Given that the usual diet consisted of fairly dependable catches of caribou, fish, and sea mammals, many years could pass between episodes of scarcity. Considering the dangers of hunting, the old and infirm who weren’t expected to hunt could outlive a hunter in his prime.
On the other hand, when food did run short, the old and sick were looked upon as drains on the community’s resources. Sometimes they were killed – thrown into the sea, buried alive, locked out in the cold, or starved to death. Far more commonly they were simply abandoned to die. The victim might be taken out in the wilderness and left there, or the whole village might pick up and move away while the old person slept. If the villagers were unexpectedly restored to prosperity, they might go back to rescue those left behind. An abandoned person would also be welcomed back as a full member of the community if he could manage to make his way back to the village on his own. But usually, he couldn’t.
You might think, “OMG! How could those savages do such a thing?” Except, we “civilized” people do the same thing via government healthcare. In nations with socialized medicine, they delay operations and if a certain percentage of people die because they didn’t get treatment soon enough, the attitude is “Oh well, too bad, so sad, but we did save some money!” They, along with insurance companies, also refuse certain treatments to certain people because they make an arbitrary judgment about whether someone is too old, too sick, or too unlikely to benefit from the treatment. In all fairness, sometimes these treatments are extraordinarily expensive Hail Mary’s, but the thing about Hail Mary’s is that they do work sometimes.
This whole topic even came up in the United States as a side issue in the Obamacare debate. As you may remember, Obamacare was sold almost entirely with lies and it turned out to be a disaster that led to much higher medical bills for most Americans. It also raised the specter of “death panels.” Although the mainstream media claimed the idea of death panels was nothing but a lie, there were prominent liberals that were endorsing the idea:
“Some years down the pike, we’re going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. It’s going to be that we’re actually going to take Medicare under control, and we’re going to have to get some additional revenue, probably from a VAT. But it’s not going to happen now.” — Paul Krugman
That’s a tradeoff society is making because of very, very high medical costs and a lack of willingness to say, you know, is spending a million dollars on that last three months of life for that patient, would it be better not to lay off those ten teachers and to make that tradeoff in medical costs. But that’s called a death panel and you’re not supposed to have that discussion. — Bill Gates
“WE need death panels. Well, maybe not death panels, exactly, but unless we start allocating health care resources more prudently – rationing, by its proper name – the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget.” – Steven Rattner, counselor to the Treasury Secretary under Obama
They also tried to sneak the idea into Obamacare by paying doctors to have end-of-life conversations with patients that would have amounted to them encouraging people to die sooner and by attempting to create an Independent Payment Advisory Board which basically would have been a death panel that prevented people from getting treatment because of the cost.
Now, you might fairly say, “But, this is a real issue! People may spend minimal amounts on healthcare for their whole lives and then spend astronomical amounts in the last few months.”
All of that is true, but that is where the philosophical differences between conservatives and liberals come in. Dying is a very messy, individualized business and liberals look at the world more collectively, believe in centralized decision-making, and have a cartoonish way of looking at reality that doesn’t work well in the real world. The fact is, you can’t simply put together a “panel of experts” and have them make the “best decision” on how to end everyone’s life.
Some people will fight for every last second of life, no matter how painful it is or what the cost may be, and others would rather check out before their quality of life dips below a certain point. Additionally, one size does not fit all when it comes to healthcare. Two people with the same diagnosis don’t necessarily have the same prognosis even if they may appear statistically similar at first glance. I don’t want to tell you that this is typical, but if you haven’t ever heard Joseph McClendon talk about his mother’s cancer diagnosis (they said 2 to 3 months to live and she ended up living 11.5 years), it’s a hell of a story… and it’s far from unique.
If you’re Bill Gates and know that the money you have always means that you have options, it’s very easy to say that doing a medical procedure to save someone’s life isn’t worth money that could theoretically be used to fund 10 more teachers, but what if it’s your life? Your mother’s life? Your grandfather’s life? As far as I’m concerned, in that situation, I’m putting my people first, so “f them teachers.” When we’re talking about the real world, as opposed to some theoretical exercise, most people, even liberals, tend to think that way when it gets right down to it.
Along similar lines, it’s very easy for someone like Richard Hanania to glibly tweet that older Americans are “burdens” because they “no longer even have wisdom to offer young generations,” but it’s a foolish and myopic way of looking at the world that reminds me of that famous Oscar Wilde quote:
If you think everything people need to learn and know can be picked up from Google or a YouTube video, you truly know “the value of nothing.” It also makes you wonder at what age Richard Hanania will conclude he’s a “burden” and needs to kill himself because he has nothing to offer the world. Best guess? Never. That’s because liberals don’t understand human nature, have great difficulty thinking about the long-term repercussions of their actions, and feel very comfortable asking everyone else to live by standards that they won’t abide by because they’re “special.” The same goes for Mr. Liberal Yale Professor. Do you think he’s really going to Jack Kervorkian himself one day, the way he’s suggesting that other people do, just because he’s old? Maybe… but, it’s unlikely. It’ll be more like, “Since I actually got old myself, my views have changed.”
Incidentally, you will also consistently find that the people who look at the world this way also tend to be big proponents of government-run healthcare, which if you’re smart, is just one more reason that you shouldn’t want the government handling our healthcare. Government-run healthcare is sold entirely with lies, “Oh, it’s free,” but those same people will then turn around and say, “Sorry, you can’t have your life-saving operation, because it’s just too expensive to do that for someone at your age.”
What it all comes down to is that it isn’t a simple, easy, one size fits all question and the people who want to reduce it to that have a broken way of looking at the world. These are issues people should think about, let their families know about, and plan for because one day, death is coming for all of us and when your life is on the line, you, and the people you love, will want to be making the decisions, not bureaucrats or people who see you as nothing but a burden on society.