First, although I noted in the column that my family has dealt with and continues to deal with Alzheimer’s and that I can understand the pressure Charles Snelling probably was feeling, I added that I didn’t necessarily approve of his solution. He had resources available to him that most of us don’t, and if anything, should have been better prepared than most of us to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It’s hard to believe there wasn’t a better answer than a murder-suicide.
On the other hand, none of us know the exact circumstances of this situation, and I’m reluctant to judge. Whether you approve or not, there seems little question that he believed he was acting out of love for a woman with whom he had shared 61 years of marriage. I’m more inclined to feel sad than angry.
Setting their particular circumstances aside, I’ll put a broader question to you:
Do you think our society should offer a better alternative for people or their loved ones in cases involving advanced states of Alzheimer’s, brain death or terrible suffering from some other irreversible condition?
Specifically, should euthanasia be a legal option under any medical circumstances or are you unalterably opposed?
Bill brings up an important point in the first paragraph. Most people are not wealthy enough to personally provide 24/7 care for a relative with Alzheimer’s, nor are they wealthy enough to afford in-home care.
Should people’s access to medical care depend on their ability to pay, or their relatives’ ability to afford to forego work in order to spend the time caring for them? I don’t think so. I think everyone deserves some comfort and dignity at the end of life, but our ragged safety net allows too many poor people to fall through the cracks.
This is an area where the political party one chooses to support has enormous consequences for real human lives.
The Democratic Party favors more generous extension of guaranteed health care benefits to all Americans. The Republican Party not only opposes this, but they want to privatize Medicare and end guaranteed benefits for seniors. Charles Snelling was obviously extremely generous when it came to caring for his own family, but he did not support guaranteeing those same benefits for all Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
Instead of supporting higher taxes so that less fortunate people could enjoy the same high quality health care he was able to buy his wife, Mr. Snelling marshaled his considerable wealth and influence in support of a political movement that is single-mindedly devoted to lowering taxes for wealthy individuals like himself.
On the euthanasia issue, Mr. Snelling was personally on the right side of the debate, correctly arguing that the true Big Government position is putting the State, not the individual, in the position to decide when that individual should be allowed to die. This is a position I share with Mr. Snelling. Americans should absolutely, as a Constitutional right, be entitled to a Right to Die. It should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide when his/her life should end.
The problem is that the political party Mr. Snelling supported does not believe in a Right to Die at all. Recall the Terry Schiavo mess, where the Republican Party mobilized to intervene in what should clearly have been a private decision.
It is certainly a valid criticism of the Democratic Party that while they were willing to exploit the Republicans’ overreach for political gain, they have not had the political courage to take their critique to its logical conclusion and advocate for a Constitutional Right to Die or a national law legalizing physician-assisted suicide.
However, it has been clear for a long time that the political fight for a right to die will be more easily accomplished by the Democrats than by the Republicans. The nature of the Republican political coalition is that Southern religious fundamentalists have a hammerlock on the party’s policy agenda, and they are the group that is most invested in the status quo of end-of-life politics.
It is because religious conservatives hold so much power in this country that we have such a juvenile discourse end of life issues. Politicians can’t even talk about covering end-of-life planning in Medicare without these people screaming about death panels. That is who is responsible for the status quo, and that is who is ultimately to blame for Charles Snelling having to
shoot his wife with a gun murder his wife himself, instead of taking her to a doctor who could have ended her life painlessly in a comfortable controlled environment.