“Hurry up and die”, good for Tara Osa, good for my dog, good for me?
Tara Osa is Japan’s finance minister, and he wants the Japanese to “hurry up and die” instead of costing the government money for end-of-life medical care. “I don’t need that kind of care. I will die quickly” he boasted, adding that he doesn’t want to be like the “tube people” who can’t feed themselves.
Later he semi-apologized, saying that he wasn’t speaking as the senior executive who has been tasked to solve Japan’s worse-than-America’s social security crisis, but just as a man who wanted people to be able to live the end of their lives “peacefully.”
Which brings me to my dog.
My wife and I — each eldest among our siblings and each having recently lost a parent to the ravages of death in a hospital bed — have always lamented that dogs have it better than humans. When it’s time to go, well, call the vet, a couple hundred dollars for a house call, and they’re gone. Figuratively and literally.
They go at exactly the right time, when that imaginary quality-of-life curve has dipped below that imaginary low quality-of-life threshold line, that point where you know it’s never coming back. And even then, add a couple of weeks or a month, just in case, and to let him know again and again, that in spite of what you’re about to do to him, that you still love him. In short — let them go peacefully. If only we humans had such kind overseers!
My dog died two weeks ago. As my daughter recounted, he just sat there, being patted, then he was gone. (Maybe he wondered why so many people were touching him, and feeling sad.) There was no consent; afterwards, to her, it seemed like murder. I admit to second thoughts. Not second thoughts about his life — I know he was in pain, I know it was time. His last few trips outside started as sort of a crawl-walk, exploring the gardens and covered areas for “a comfortable hole”, and I gave him all the time in the world for that. But then he’d be at the front door again, and we’d do it all over the next day. If there was a next day. But there always was. Still, he was in constant pain, wasn’t he?
The problem, of course, is how do I know I did it for him, and not me? (Unlike Tara Osa, I can afford his upkeep.) I don’t know that he was ready, I don’t know that it was time. I only know that I was ready and it was time for me. Loosely translated I guess: I was not ready for what was to happen next and I had no desire to take the time to find out. To be honest, if it was the right time I just got lucky.
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to be the Netherlands. But the whole process has made me think. Who are we benefiting? What is consent? Why exactly is the choice to die better than the choice to live, and is it better for a good reason? And why do I feel the way I do now, two weeks later?
Tara Osa has done himself and his country a disservice. Admonishment from the state, which needs people to die more quickly to help balance its books, to die quickly is the opposite of consent — it undermines consent. Perhaps Tara Osa just misspoke and is sorry for his remarks, in which case he is an insensitive oaf unworthy of an executive position in his country’s government. The other alternative is almost unthinkable: that his remarks were calculated to play on the loyalty of the Japanese people to do the right thing, and it’s the apology that should be ignored.