"Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Hee Hee, Hah Hah
I once had a teacher who flunked me in history
She asked, 'Who shot Lincoln?'
I answered, 'Don't blame me.'
Hey hey, ho ho, strange things are happening."
— Comedian Red Buttons, "The Red Buttons Show," 1952-1955
Buttons' line — "strange things are happening" — caught on with the
nation's teenagers back when I was one of them.
recall another, later part of Buttons' career, when he became a
recognized dramatic actor. In "Ben Casey," a medical drama series
starring Vince Edwards televised in the early '60s, he played a man
whose wife was dying in great pain and who wanted Dr. Casey, an
idealistic surgeon, to help her die. Being 22, I considered it
strange that Dr. Casey couldn't help them because euthanasia was
against the law.
a libertarian, I couldn't understand why an individual didn't have
the right to die. What's this Big Government thing that says an
individual can't end his own life on his own terms?
thought that when I finished fighting Big Government's strange tax
policies, I'd like to start an organization to launch a petition
drive to place a question on the Massachusetts ballot for a law
allowing "death with dignity."
law has been passed in other states — Oregon, Washington state and
Montana — and a bill has been filed here at the request of a man
named Albert Lipkind. Though Mr. Lipkind died four months ago of
cancer, the bill was heard at the Statehouse last week.
legislation, H 1468, contains all the safeguards that reasonable
people could want. In order to be prescribed the necessary drugs, an
adult 18 years of age or older would have to be suffering from "an
incurable and invincible disease that has been medically confirmed
and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within
six months." There are pages of additional safeguards: Fifteen days
must pass between the oral request from the patient until his signed
written request, then another 48 hours until the drugs are
dispensed. Two physicians must confirm the diagnosis. Witnesses
cannot be relatives who would inherit property after the patient's
death. No person can apply simply because of disability or age.
not a bill to allow death; the patient is already dying and is
choosing only a merciful end, similar to the one we give our beloved
pets. Who could object to this?
the two legislators who were kind enough to file the bill for Mr.
Lipkind will find out. I once Googled 'euthanasia' to learn the best
way to kill a sick fish and found myself in the midst of an Internet
battle on euthanasia policy for people.
Religions that teach that God wants to choose the exact moment of
death Himself are entitled to their opinions. But I think separation
of church and state means I don't have to listen to them.
believe that suicide is a sin of ingratitude for the gift of life
and am appalled when I hear of people who kill themselves over a
lost love, stock-market crash or temporary hardship like high school
certainly understand the need for safeguards. I'm sure in the ugly
corner of the human universe there are family members who would be
happy to encourage a quicker passing for the person who controls
their inheritance. The Massachusetts House bill covers and obviates
Certainly things have changed for the better since Buttons'
character was denied his and his wife's request. Doctors and
hospitals are no longer required to keep a terminal patient alive
with artificial means if he/she chooses not to accept them. Many of
us have signed a living will clarifying our wishes. But there is
still a gap, for the occasion when a patient is taking a long,
painful, undignified time to die on his own. This is societal
sadism, and it's time to end it when both the patient and a willing
doctor have a better idea.
way, I do want to distinguish this support for H 1468 from any
possibility of support for our government deciding to put us down
when it runs out of Medicare/Medicaid money, which is going to
happen soon. But we're a long way from that discussion right now.
Minutes" recently did a segment in which it noted that Medicare has
paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last
two months of patients' lives, and "it has been estimated that 20 to
30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful
impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government
with few or no questions asked."
opinion, one question at least should be asked if the patient has
been diagnosed as terminal: Do you want to continue dying awhile
longer, or not?
it interesting that in some discussions about methods of applying
the merciful-death medication, the phrase "pushing the red button"
ho ho, it's my life and I'm ready to go.
hee hee, the government ain't the boss of me.