"Deathers" is a term I first heard on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program last week. A play on the term "birthers," it identifies those extremist opponents of the President's health-care reform plans who believe, or at least claim, that "Obamacare" will result, unintentionally or not, in the mass demise of old people who will lose out on health care. Cal Thomas, the conservative columnist, is a sort of philosophical deather. He writes from the U.K. this week, where he's appalled to learn about a case in which the House of Lords ruled in favor of a multiple sclerosis patient who wants to end her life at a Swiss "euthanasia clinic." The Lords have required the country's Director of Public Prosecutions to "spell out exactly when the government will act if someone helps a friend take their own life abroad." The decision, I infer from Thomas's commentary, limits the Director's power to prosecute the patient's husband, for instance, if he accompanies her to the clinic.
"One doesn't have to be a futurist or a prophet to see where this is headed," Thomas writes, "Having removed the right to life from the unborn in the UK and the United States, it is only a matter of conditioning before the at first 'voluntary' and ultimately involuntary snuffing out of life at its other end will be tolerated and, indeed, promoted as the state seeks new ways to cut expenses."
I thought liberals were the ones who believed in the "slippery slope," but that just goes to show again that "liberal" and "conservative" are nearly useless labels for describing the factions involved in our national debates. Thomas clearly fears (and I'll give him credit for sincerely fearing) a slippery slope from the "right to die" to government-mandated euthanasia, which some (and perhaps Thomas himself) see as a long-term consequence of "rationed" health care. But he's also got to get a dig in at the reproductive rights movement.
"As suicide, like abortion, becomes a 'choice,' it will be done for reasons that go beyond the reason through which it is ushered in: the supposed 'intolerable pain and suffering' and 'lack of hope' of recovery," he continues, "Abortion on demand was conceived through the bogus rape of an unmarried woman and now it can be had for any reason, or no reason."
What worries Thomas is the possibility that the decision to die might not be made by the actual sick person. "Should that decision be left in the hands of others whose motives may be suspect, or even to our own hands when our perspective may be clouded by drugs or pressures from family members trying to unload their 'burden' and get to the estate before the money is spent?" he asks -- as if no family had ever taken such steps for greedy reasons before, say, the advent of Dr. Kervorkian.
"If granny has willed you her nest egg, why not convince her and the doctor to slip her a pill and end her 'suffering?'" Thomas theorizes, "Wouldn't she 'want it that way' so as not to be a 'burden' to her family?" This, of course, is a monstrous insult to anyone who has actually had to deal with a loved one who wanted to die more quickly, and the insult is only made worse by the timing of Thomas's column, which is obviously meant to draw analogies between greedy, selfish relatives and an insensitive state dedicated to "rationing."
Thomas is a Christian conservative, though on many issues he's backed away from old-school Christian activism on the Moral Majority model. This issue, however, is an old fashioned crusade for the columnist. "The one who gave us life has, or ought to have, sole discretion as to when it ends," he thunders, "But if increasing numbers of us think 'the one' refers to a character in 'The Matrix' [way to stay hip, Cal!] and that we are just evolutionary accidents, then the conclusion of it all is euthanasia for the elderly, the 'defective,' the inconvenient and the unwanted. It's coming sooner than you think to a senior center near you, especially if Obamacare becomes law."
In their hysteria about euthanasia, some conservatives lose track of the script for their ongoing jihad against liberals. The last time I looked, liberals were supposed to be "bleeding hearts," compassionate to a fault when it comes to those conservatives consider unworthy of compassion, too willing to burden the self-reliant with the costs of helping the dependent. If "Obamacare" is a liberal scheme, then shouldn't conservatives assume that it will be the able-bodied who'll suffer as "socialized medicine" perpetuates the no-longer productive lives of the infirm? Might the all-powerful state not seek out those who pose the greatest risk through reckless behavior of using up hospital resources that ought to go to the weakest and most helpless? Wouldn't liberals rather kill the young to save the old the way they supposedly rob the rich to give to the poor? Does that argument sound absurd to conservative readers? Well, don't knock it until you try it. For all I know, if you started making that case on the radio or online, you could actually kill health-care reform.