Diehard IV: Living Beyond Our Means

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

And you thought Cape Cod was a black hole for the retired!

You can find the real old guys in the Book of Genesis. Chapter Five is filled with them. To note a few: Methuselah, the granddaddy of the human race, lived for 969 years, scripture tells us, with no indication of how the ancient calendar worked. Adam, the first male, died at 800, Noah’s father Lamech lived to be 777, and Noah himself, Chapter 5:32 notes, was a youthful 500 when he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. Adam’s distant relative Enosh lived 905 years, and Enosh’s son Kenan lived to be 910. On the short side of life, Abraham, the father of all nations, lived to be 175, and his young bride Sarah died at 125. And finally, Moses passed on prematurely at 120. Must have been all those years wandering around the desert in the hot sun.

New medical discoveries are slowly returning us to the good old days, as we now live longer than a generation ago for a variety of reasons: less wear and tear, better health, improved medicine, artificial body parts, and now face transplants. Who knows what’s next, or what science will clone for us? From the moment of birth, it seems, we prolong death; probably for most of us, it’s a fear of the unknown. But often the essential ingredient—the quality of life—is missing, a component that hasn’t caught up with today’s medical advances.

As Baby Boomers enter retirement age and the X-Generation ponders the best 401K plans, we all face the prospects of living, or being forced to live, beyond our means. Unless you reside in Oregon.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, has mercifully blocked the Bush Administration’s efforts to discipline physicians who help terminally ill patients die, sanctioning Oregon’s first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law. The court ruled that the Bush Administration had inappropriately attempted to use a federal drug law to pursue Oregon doctors who prescribe lethal doses of prescription medicines, the Associated Press noted in its report. The ruling is expected to encourage other states to follow suit, presaging a life-and-death struggle in Congress over doctor-assisted suicides in cases involving patients with incurable diseases and a functioning mind. In Oregon, the law has been exercised to end the lives of more than 200 terminally ill individuals.

Expect the Bush Administration and its appendages to weigh in passionately against such laws on the hallowed ground of right to life, terra firma that I, too, embrace. Any delusion of this, the Bush Administration dreads, puts at risk legal strategies in the anti-abortion issue.

But doctor-assisted suicide is not about the sanctity of life. It’s about the sanctity and dignity of death, and our moral right not to prolong it through unnatural means.

Methuselah may have lived the equivalent of ten generations or more, and Noah found love at 500, but for most of us the light at the end of the tunnel is dim until we approach it on the other side.


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