Jack London’s short story “The Law of Life
” is about dying. A blind, old Indian man was near death, but the nomadic band he had lived with couldn’t wait for his end. They needed to hunt if they would survive, so, with his consent, they left him behind to die alone in the frigid Arctic north country. His son patted him on the head before leaving on his dogsled. He expected the cold would take him - a relatively peaceful death, if lonely. But, just as he ran out of firewood, a pack of wolves surrounded him.
We all have to die of something. Like most, I’d prefer to go in my sleep next to a beautiful woman after enjoying a good meal with good wine, and, you know. Truth be told, though, I don’t really want to know the how or when of it. It’s out of my control. And what happens after that? I believe the Catholic version of everlasting life, but that’s not the subject of this column. Death is.
I read a lot of Jack London as a boy. He was an atheist, a socialist, a eugenicist, and an alcoholic
, but I didn’t know any of that while I was reading him. I have little doubt that if he were alive today, he’d be an Obama supporter. He’d support Obamacare and its death panels I suspect, but maybe not. In the story, London described the old Indian’s death as a mutual decision of both the clan and the individual. They were kin and would have nurtured him in his final hours or days out of respect, but they all understood that to delay the hunt would weaken the whole band. They cared for him, but their survival was more important. He cared enough for them to accept that. Government death panels, however, would be comprised of strangers, not family, and would not necessarily include input from the dying individual. The decision would be based on a cold, bureaucratic, cost/benefit analysis.
Then again, maybe the eugenicist in London would approve. It’s worth mentioning here that Nazis admired American eugenicists like Jack London and Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood
and patron saint of gender feminists. The Nazi Holocaust began with the extermination of the weak and feeble-minded as a drain on German national resources, and then “progressed” to mass murder of “inferior” races.
While a young college student, I worked as an orderly on the 3-11 shift in a state, chronic-care hospital in Massachusetts where people didn’t get better and go home. They died there, and it was my job to put their toe tags on, wrap them up in a shroud, and bring them down to the morgue. Before they died, I fed them dinner, played cribbage with them, cleaned them up if they needed it, and talked to them about dying if they wanted to. Some died with dignity. Others didn’t. How they went wasn’t about external circumstances though. It was about how they were inside. After two-and-a-half years I got my undergrad degree and left that job. It taught me much about the end of life. I was a young man - twenty-four - but unlike others my age who thought themselves indestructible, I came away with a deep understanding that nobody lives forever. That awareness has enriched my life ever since.
Last year this time, my wife’s father lay dying. He was ninety and unless a feeding tube were surgically inserted, he wouldn’t last. The family gathered and conferred with his doctor in a nearby room. The decision was unanimous - make him as comfortable as possible and wait for the end. The doctor complimented everyone and said unanimity in family meetings like that was rare in his experience. The family meeting could have been called a death panel, I suppose, but it was one comprised of people who loved him, not disinterested government bureaucrats. Unless Obamacare is repealed, I don’t think it’s going to be like that for too many of you reading right now. Unless you go suddenly with a heart attack or something, which only 10-20% of us do, your end will be determined by a government death panel decision, not a family one.
Consider that when your health insurance company sends you a cancellation notice. Think about it when you shop on the exchanges and learn that you’re going to be paying much higher premiums for much less coverage under the “Affordable” Care Act. Your increased premiums will pay for abortions
and death panels
, or, as Obamacare euphemistically calls them: “Independent Payment Advisory Boards” or IPABs. Their job will be to decide if you’re worth spending money on.
Jack London’s old Indian faced a pack of wolves as his end. Tomorrow’s Americans will deal with government bureaucrats on their local IPAB. What will it be like dealing with them? Think how it is at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Take a number and wait. Welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare.