Thursday, August 09, 2007

Malcolm and Barbara: Love's Farewell

Another documentary on mental illness (this time Alzheimer's Disease) was shown last night on ITV. This one was atrocious. The whole thing was edited to show that living with a spouse who suffers from this form of dementia is terrible and the best thing to do is put them out of their misery. Interviews with Barbara concerned their deteriorating sex life, whether she considered having an affair as Malcolm couldn't satisfy her sexually anymore, suggesting she had a drinking problem because she likes a gin & tonic after she has put Malcolm to bed. Interviews with Malcolm made him out to be a gibbering idiot, removed all dignity from him by showing pictures of him in his underwear, his wife dressing and undressing him and on the lavatory. The worst pictures were at the end of his life when he had lost so much weight you could see every bone in his body and they filmed him in quite inappropriate states of undress. At one point all I could think was, 'When we see pictures like this of Jews in Nazi Labour Camps we are appalled yet I am supposed to be thinking "Oh, how terrible, if only Euthanasia were legal."'

This programme was propaganda material for the legalisation of Euthanasia, in fact I'm not convinced Malcolm died naturally. These two people were in love with eachother 'to the bitter end' (to quote Barbara herself) but the film showed nothing but hatred and resentment for the terrible life they were both forced to live due to this disease which can be dealt with with one simple injection. I wonder if someone were to make a similar documentary portraying the opposite views it would be given air time.

1 comment:

Auricularius said...

Your comment about Jews in Nazi Labour Camps is apt. Perhaps Channel 4 might consider showing the the Nazi film Ich Klage an (I Accuse) which was produced in 1941. The message of the film was that doctors who submit to an incurable patient's death wish act legally and morally. Hanna, the beautiful young wife of professor Thomas Heyt, is suffering from multiple sclerosis. Her husband, the newly appointed director of the Anatomical Institute of Munich University, knows that there is little hope for his wife. Hanna first asks her personal physician and family friend Bernhard Lang to end her life should the moment of unbearable suffering occur. Lang refuses and says: 'I am your best friend, but I am also a doctor, and as such I am a servant of life. Life must be preserved at any cost. Hanna then approaches her husband Thomas in a very emotional way: `You must help me. I want to remain your Hanna till the very end, I don't want to become somebody else who is deaf, blind, and idiotic. I wouldn't endure that. Thomas, if you really love me, promise that you will deliver me from this beforehand.' Hanna's medical condition rapidly deteriorates. Thomas and Bernhard realize she has only a few weeks to live. One day they are together at Hanna's bedside. Hanna kindly asks Bernhard to leave the room. She wants to be alone with Thomas. Bernhard goes to the piano in the living room where he starts to play. While the piano music can be heard in the bedroom Thomas fetches a bottle containing a sedative and poors a fatal dose into Hannna's glass. Before passing away Hanna says, 'I feel so happy, I wish I were dead.' Thomas replies, 'Death is coming, Hanna. ' Hanna responds, 'I love you, Thomas! 'I love you, too, Hanna: says Thomas. Bernhard is furious when Thomas informs him what has happened. Domestic servant Bertha then accuses Thomas of murdering his wife and takes him to court. At issue is: can a doctor be allowed to cause the death of a terminally ill patient after that person explicitly requested him to do so? One of the witnesses is Bernhard. He says that he initially also opposed Hanna's request, but now he sees things from a different perspective. `Thomas, you are not a murderer!' he says loud and clear in the courtroom. Thomas himself then accuses ('I accuse!') those doctors and judges who by adhering to strict rules fail to serve the people. `Try me! Whatever the outcome, your judgment will be a signal to all those who are in the same position like me! Yes, I confess: I did kill my incurably ill wife, but it was at her request.

It is interesting to note that Karl Brandt, the head of Hitler's euthanasia programme, claimed at his trial after the war: `The underlying motive was the desire to help individuals who could not help themselves and were thus prolonging their lives of torment.' Needless to say, the reality was very different. The Nazis went far beyond killing the incurably sick, and few of the 'individuals' Brandt had in mind actually made a request that `their lives of torment' should not be prolonged. Doubtless, modern euthanasia advocates will protest that their motives are different, but the Nazi experience suggests otherwise and that a programme which starts out with "humane" objectives, can very easily be perverted. The Nazi euthanasia programme was code-named T4. This referred to Tiergartenstrasse 4, where the program was planned. T-4 centers were places of brutal medical experiments and mass killings of unwanted people considered a burden to society. They were Totungsanstalten "killing institutes". There were six of them: Grafeneck, Hartheim, Brandenburg, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar. In these special T-4 establishments nearly 9,000 people were gassed in the first half of 1940. The total number of killings problably exceeded 100,000. The killings provided know-how for the subsequent gassing of the Jews in extermination camps. Indeed, under the name of Sonderaktion 14 f, T-4 extended its activities to concentration camp inmates.

It all sounds terribly familiar doesn't it?