Deadly Doctors and Murderous Aunts

One time, two of our young daughters went to some friends’ home for a sleepover. For some inexplicable reason, these girls’ usually responsible parents decided that watching the 1944 black and white movie, Arsenic and Old Lace, was a suitable evening activity. Twenty years later, that supposed comedy, with its murderous elderly aunts, still gives our girls nightmares.

Laughter often springs from a contrast between reality and what we are seeing. Surely, Arsenic and Old Lace could only be seen as a comedy by viewers who did not actually suspect that their sweet, unassuming aunts had scores of bodies hidden in their basements. As young girls, our daughters apparently were not completely clear that the movie didn’t depict reality.

Motivated by a misplaced sense of compassion (not to mention insanity) the two sweet, loving aunts in the movie murder lonely old men who are visiting them. Seeing the film as humorous, even if it is dark humor, presupposes an understanding of the sanctity of life. That is one of the values that Americans used to share and increasingly don’t. 

Without that, Arsenic and Old Lace is no longer a comedy but a nightmare.

With little fanfare, a number of ‘medical aid in dying’ laws have recently gone into effect or will shortly do so in the United States. These allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. The laws contain numerous clauses designed to ensure that patients are thoughtful, competent to make such decisions and not being influenced to do so by others. Reality suggests that meticulously crafted laws are no match for human ingenuity, mendacity, carelessness and evil.

Europe is ahead of the United States (though ahead seems the wrong word to use) when it comes to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary euthanasia. I doubt that the relatives of those murdered, or who, as the official report euphemistically labels it, died by “a disregard for human life” at Gosport War Memorial hospital in the United Kingdom, would find Arsenic and Old Lace funny. The individual stories of the over 450 hospital patients who were given deliberately dangerous drug doses between 1988 and 2000 leading to their deaths, certainly aren’t even slightly funny. Rather, they are tragic. 

Official government reports of this National Health Service monstrosity use terms like, “unsafe care” and “professional misconduct.” That is using language to mask the truth. It is not neglect or even misconduct to deliberately inject a patient with a dosage of medicine meant to kill him. It is murder.

This as well as other stories from Europe that suggest similar problems contradicts the progressive narrative. They receive little play in the United States. Universal healthcare is promoted as leading to better health care, not administrative overreach leading to horrific deaths. Advocates depict physician-assisted suicide only as a compassionate and caring act, not one easily subject to diabolical abuse.

In the real world, people get very ill and too frequently suffer months and years of physical and mental torment before dying. Those who love them suffer in agony with them. The lure of ‘medical aid in dying’ and euthanasia is a siren song whose appeal is incredibly tempting for good and caring people. Yet, as the Gosport tragedy reveals, interfering in life and death is one of those areas where we humans desperately need a Higher Power to separate Good from Evil.

25 thoughts on “Deadly Doctors and Murderous Aunts”

  1. Dear Susan, your writing this last week was one that was much needed. Last year, almost 1 yr to today we lost my mother. She had contacted the Noro (sp) virus during a routine office call. She had just celebrated her 90th birthday. Her mind was as sharp as a tack. Her wit, wisdom, and intelligence in full operation. As an abandoned child she rose up in life and raised a beautiful family of 9 children full of faith and live. Now to the point. I raced to the hospital upon receiving news she was in bad shape. They told us she didn’t have long to live. I kissed her sweet face, and said, ” Moma, it’s me Margaret.” She opened her eyes and laughed giving me a hug. She said, ” They say I’m in bad shape, but I don’t feel that bad. I’m thirsty and hungry.”I asked why she couldn’t have water and something to eat. They told me I could swab her mouth and would bring her something yo eat. They didnt. I asked what wss in her IV to which they redponded, morphine. We have 2 Drs in the family, and after all children had arrived the quedtions began. Why no rehydration, no antibiotics. There wasn’t a satisfactory answer and no correction in treatment per request of my nephew who is a Dr. In fact no Dr even came to consult with us, just PAs. Within 4 days my mother passed with no treatment other than morphine which dehydrated her body. A painful slow death with no acceptable explanations as to the course of treatment. My nephew said he has seen this happening in hospitals. He referred to it as mercy killing. After the fact I enquired into her records requesting the names or name if the Dr in charge of her treatment. No one has yet responded to my requests. I will never again sit in trust or semi silence in a situation like this again. This is not a singular incident and sadly to say, happens far more often than people realize. I appreciate your bringing it foreward in hope people will be more vigilant and demanding than we were.

    1. I was so saddened to read your horrifying story. Your mother sounds like a wonderful person and your family sustained a tragic loss. I pray that as time passes, the special memories become stronger and the shock and grief recede.

      What a frightening experience you describe. When we are in the midst of an emergency it is so hard to think and act clearly. Your words are a strong warning to all of us.

  2. I found this statement to be prophetic. Ann Graham Lotz (daughter of Billy Graham) once said that the generation that allowed abortion to be declared legal would be the generation that would suffer from euthanasia. Unfortunately, this is coming to pass today, we reap what we sow.

    1. Sheila, in re-reading, I see that I talk about abuse. But a doctor helping to actively take a life is abuse in itself.

  3. Susan,

    I regret that this is an issue where I have to differ. I understand your point of view, and in many ways share it, but I don’t feel comfortable with what is essentially a religious belief being imposed on everyone, no matter their own beliefs may be. I doubt very much I would ever take my own life, but I do not want the power of the state preventing me from making that choice. I can imagine a situation where life might be so unbearable that letting go would be preferable. I can imagine needing help in doing that. So often now medical science can prolong life in ways that was never possible in the past. But what kind of life? If it can be kept going in a way that is nearly grotesque, maybe there is a place for also getting help to let go of it, as long as it is your own choice.

    I believe that in those states and countries that allow assisted suicide there are quite detailed safeguards that are meant to prevent abuse, such as requiring the approval of more than one doctor. Is it possible for abuse or criminal behavior to happen despite that? I suppose so, but what circumstance and what law cannot be abused?

    Two or three years ago a friend of mine had a massive stroke. He was not ill at the time. He never regained consciousness. His wife, and others, all knew that he had made it clear many times that he would not want to be resuscitated, or otherwise forced to be kept “alive” when he otherwise would die. Unfortunately, he had never put that in writing. His wife almost went crazy trying to reason with doctors and the hospital, who insisted on keeping him “alive”, attached to various machines to keep him breathing and his blood circulating. He was already dead in all but name. No matter what she said they insisted on maintaining this behavior. Finally, after three weeks, she persuaded the hospital to move him to a hospice facility and to remove the complex technology. He died almost immediately, although by that time his wife was almost crazy herself.

    These are very complex issues, but I’m sure you know that.

    1. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, Mark. These are complex issues, and tremendously troubling on all sides. I do think we should take warnings from Europe, however. The well-intentioned laws have, I believe, ended up expanding to the point of the government deciding when someone should no longer be alive. I’m sure you don’t want the government to make that decision for anyone. How do we balance things? Hard to know, but in general, I’m fearful of unintended consequences.

  4. It bothers me that the word “dignity” is used with this kind of killing. When I think of dignity for my suffering relatives, I think of protection and honor of their person…and not just the physical person. I find myself hesitant to use the word dignity though, lest I am misunderstood.

  5. Very deep, thoughtful subject. Joni Erickson Tada has written at least one book on this difficult issue; in a wheelchair having been paralyzed for decades. It is a fine line between putting a person on ‘life support’ and extending a ‘life’ that may not be God’s will to extend. Then a spirit is still alive in a dead body. Much to ponder, thank you!

    1. Kathy, you are making an important distinction. Actively ending a life is not the equivalent of not doing everything possible to extend that life. These are personal issues that span spiritual, physical and economic decisions.

      1. I am against assisted suicide. They call it Hospice now. I’ve seen this many times.
        On the subject of the movie, Arsenic and Old Lace, I saw it when I was about 10. Thought it was funny. I’m now 62. Had a chance to watch it a few weeks ago and passed on it. I knew I wouldn’t be laughing now. 52 years of real life, Gacey, Bundy, murderous weeks in Chicago and elsewhere, etc. have made me realize that the movie really isn’t funny at all.

        1. I do know people who have benefitted from hospice care, PQ. They and their families were treated compassionately and well and the staff followed the guidance of the patient’s religious advisor. I’m sure there is a wide variety out there and that some places may abuse the privilege. But I would not issue a blanket condemnation.

  6. Dear Mrs Lapin,
    I was talking to a GP some time ago and I asked when confronted with a terminally ill, in-pain patient who required an increase and more often pain- killer treatment. Knew that if the illness didn’t kill the patient then eventually the drugs would do.
    I should imagine that all doctors have to face this problem in the course of their jobs and are answerable to God

    1. Tony, as you note, end of life issues are very complex. There used to be much more of a relationship between individuals and their doctors. Often, the doctor would share their values and faith. Government involvement in health care has damaged that relationship and I worry that the damage is only going to increase.

  7. I had an Uncle on my mom’s side he was very much like Mr. Magoo in that bad things would happen around him and yet he would remain unharmed and unaware of how lucky he was, all the while being one of the most intelligent, hard and conscientious individuals from the beginning to now to have ever walked the earth. Once his car was picked up by tornado a thrown no injuries, coming home from work sober he runs off a bridge no injuries, his big tree was blown over in a storm him in the kitchen and a large branch comes crashing right beside him, in the military he was in Recon and as they were offloading into a small boat from a larger ship one of the old style belt fed machine guns falls off the ship hitting him directly on the head crushing his helmet, yet he only spends a few days in the hospital.
    Just a heck of guy and one of my, no, my favorite human. Gordon Morris Minor
    Years later he at 82 he gets cancer he smoked since his teens. He was still so very strong physically and mentally so.
    A couple years before that he picked up a drunk cousin of ours who had to be close to 300lbs and tossed him into the guest bed. He was 80. We, my wife and I, took care him for his sons when he got weaker fed him every day, all meals.
    He never gave up hope.
    No matter how long you live if you are *full* individual and love life every next breath , not necessarily the one you currently have is a blessing.
    So, in that case for me it would be wrong despite his condition.
    I admit I have mixed feelings about people say in nursing homes who aren’t actually there anymore and just padding the pharmaceutical industry’s pocket. I’ve heard of cases of patients being on 20+ different medications. It’s sad. The doctors get kick backs the sales reps get rich…I’m rambling.
    So Yes, I do see a need for euthanasia, but also a hierarchy.

    Another example: My cousin on my dads side another wild man, nowhere near as lucky, but such an incredible. For his funeral his friend a grave stone monument maker did his headstone for free I wish I could post you the pick. It was of him in typical fashion telling stories to four of his friends accurately depicted with him pointing at them with only the title of “The Storyteller” nothing else love it such a cool and appropriate thing.
    Anyhow, his cancer went much worse and I wonder would he have taken that option. It was hell for him.
    I really appreciate you guys. I think in a previous text I mentioned I was looking for new employment or maybe not it’s like I go around telling strangers my problems but you to me are not and I do feel a kinship with every story told and facts laying out the entirety of the way things *Rrrrrrrrreally* work as with the ones mentioned above, but I do have new employment with far better hours and an actual home life I’m a truck driving instructor now.
    So I don’t have all the time in the world listen anymore, not droning my life away with nothing to do, but watch scenery and eat, but I do listen going to and from work and strangely enough at the gym.
    I wish there was a way also to see your program on tct but we canceled directv and went to streaming only can’t find guys. Anyhow, there’s still podcasts.
    God bless
    Jonathan Rogers Rayburn

      1. I’m not privy the the new laws. Try to stay way from the news. Makes me crazy. The ones on the books already are bad enough. Everything seems bad these days. Atleast we have people like you and Rabbi Lapin being the light.

  8. I so totally agree! Only God can know the motives of a compassionate heart, and if a person “feels” they are doing the right thing by helping a sick loved one into the next life, there is that -playing the role of God- which gives a mere mortal person, too much power. And power is a heady emotion, which is contrary to a contrite spirit. No, these so called actions of compassion are no more than a disguised form of one person’s control over another. Anyone with a conscience would feel the after-doubts of ‘what if’ for the rest of their life. It is NOT a good thing.

    1. Jill, these particular laws are aimed only at doctor and patient, but they obviously are related to other trends as well.

  9. L Elizabeth Fish

    Life and Death is God’s Choice not ours, a government, our family or some medical person. Thank you for addressing this issue!!!

    1. In a society that says that our bodies belong only to us, the idea of God having input is a tough sell indeed.

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