To Kill or Not to Kill...That Should NOT be the Question!

Terminal illness is no excuse for murder

By Edie J. Adler
Published on LatinoLA: April 26, 2008

To Kill or Not to Kill...That Should NOT be the Question!

Don't you just hate it when one of your favorite TV shows gets too political? In their effort to advance their agenda, some writers, producers and such go out of their way to express their views and end up ruining what used to be a very entertaining program.

I used to love watching Boston Legal every Tuesday night. The dialog was witty and the tension between the liberal and the conservative characters was very clever. But then they got rid of almost all the conservative characters and made Denny Crane, played by William Shatner, the sole conservative survivor, a caricature under the guise of Alzheimer's.

None the less my husband and I continued to watch, because we enjoyed the rapport between the Denny and Allan characters, and, truth be told, growing up in Mexico City I was a fan of Captain Kirk.

But a recent episode was probably the end of the line for me. Forgetting all the cheap shots at our President and our brave men and women in uniform, this episode dealt with euthanizing Shirley's father; Shirley is played by Candice Bergen.

Some of my friends might be thinking this is just a TV show, meant as entertainment, and no court in the US would ever rule in favor of killing someone just because they are terminally ill. But to me this episode was too close for comfort.

Some of you might remember my recent column about the loss of my beloved father. Like Shirley's father on the show, my father also suffered from Alzheimer's, in addition to debilitating arthritis. Papito spent the last year of his life confined to bed, in excruciating pain, and unable to move, not even a finger. As the character on Boston Legal, Papito no longer had control of his bodily functions, and it hurt him to be moved. Some times I asked God to end his suffering. But unlike the Shirley character, it NEVER crossed my mind to end it myself!

One of the "arguments" used on the show was that "we put dogs to sleep to end their suffering, why can't we use the same compassion to end a person's pain?" (I'm paraphrasing, but close enough.) Really? Are you seriously comparing a human life to a dog's life? I am the ultimate animal lover; my husband and I have three dogs, four birds and five cats, including a feral cat we just brought inside, after eight months of working to gain his trust. I love my dog Dottie more than I love some people, and when her time comes, I will probably be devastated. But I would never compare the value of her life to the value of my father's!

This was a disgusting, disturbing, frightening show! I am deeply offended, not only simply as a God fearing American Jewish Latina, but also as a daughter who has dealt with the ugliness and indignity of Alzheimer's first hand. Unlike the Shirley character that had her father in a nursing home, I took care of my beloved Papito until the very end. I did things that I never thought I could. Some times I lost my patience, but I never stopped loving him.

I am also dealing with Alzheimer's with my Mom. She is 88 years old, and since Papito went to heaven, her illness has progressed considerably. She has even forgotten how to walk and cannot even stand for a few seconds.

Some people tell me "she is lucky to have you." I think I am lucky to have the support of a husband who loves me and understands this is something I do as much for myself as for my Mom. My mother made some mistakes, as all mother's do. But over all she was a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend, and a good, decent human being. She deserves to be treated with dignity, love and respect, even if she is not aware.

The same holds true for every person who has Alzheimer's. We should never consider "ending" their suffering. And we should never tolerate regarding the matter as a possibility. Not even as the plot of a show that used to be well written!

About Edie J. Adler:
Edie J. Adler is a free lance writer. She and her husband Neal live in the Valley with her Mom and their three dogs, five cats and four birds.

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