The euthanasia debate is about to take place in Queensland Parliament in the next few weeks and it relates to a long-suppressed MGM movie Whose Life is it Anyway? (1981) … It stars Richard Dreyfuss, so memorable as Quint’s nerdy nemesis in Jaws (1976), who plays a man/artist who loses the use of his hands in a car crash where a semi loses its brakes… It happens! … and he also loses his ability to fondle women and obviously himself….
And so, euthanasia is the new Dreyfuss/Dreyfus case ….
“And you were improbable,” says Dreyfuss deadpan to camera while he talks to caring nurse Kaki Hunter (1955-) of Porky’s (forget it!) fame and most memorably Hair (1979) that tribal rock musical which featured the song Sodomy that had a line in the chorus: “Masturbation can be fun…” True. Hard to believe but the air, the air is everywhere…. No matter if you prefer Judy Garland musicals or whatever… That poor Gumm/gum sister Judy… Hello P.K.! What a journalist! My Nana chewed the stuff while she sat in the corner of the lounge room reading Agatha Christie as my grandfather told me he didn’t chew the stuff because he thought: “Mr. Wrigley has enough our money….” Pepsi or Coke anyone? Water is cheap. Dreyfuss is paralysed from the neck down in this movie.
If you have read about euthanasia or know a friend or family member who have died slowly but surely in palliative care… You may realise the argument for and against the right to die is as polarising as the anti-Semitism of the French Dreyfus Affair way back between 1894 to 1906 which saw a nation divided… I visited Emile Zola’s grave in Montmartre Cemetery and also saw Francois Truffaut and also paid homage to Georges Feydeau who wrote the play A Flea in Her Ear (1968) and visited the Moulin Rouge (2001) while I was there – if you know what I mean? And lesbians and sisters rejoice as Delibes is buried there too who wrote the music used in the David Bowie movie The Hunger (1983) with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve…
Sadly, for Dreyfuss he must make the decision about what is a terminal condition which is only prolonged through dialysis … Yeah, I was called a “Greek Nazi” at the supermarket Yesterday (2019) but you get that…. Dreyfuss would rather die than live a life where he must suffer the indignity of being changed and toileted every day for the rest of his life in an environment which is definitely not home. The doctors will later then tell him he is mentally ill…
“Do not stick that f*cking thing in my arm!,” says the immobilised Dreyfuss when the head doctor (alcoholic actor and social issues director John Cassavetes) jokes blackly about sexuality: “I’d rather have my prostate examined” and injects Dreyfuss with 10mg of Valium. Dreyfuss’ lifelong addiction to dialysis and Valium is now dealt.
France was the ‘Catholic’ country in the original Zola/Dreyfus case which failed to recognise the right of the individual perhaps simply due to racism… and a vital statistic. We’re getting over that I hope.
Palliative care is dysfunctional in this state – How is it in yours? Most of us have a story or experience… The recent Susan Sarandon movie Blackbird (2020) where she plays a woman diagnosed with quick onset Motor Neuron Disease – no it’s not about a black sister or The Raven from Edgar Allan Poe as I can’t remember the symbolism of the title – as Sarandon chooses through her own devices to order a potion online to be delivered by post to her house which will end her life quickly and painlessly… possibly by Ebay rather than on the dark net!
Sarandon hopes she can be surrounded by her family when she takes this potion and plans a weekend together to celebrate her impending departure from this planet and into the next realm… Sadly, her family is dysfunctional and her decision is questioned which makes for the drama in this rather good movie. Sarandon still remains beautiful in my eyes and a good actress. And what is most important is that she dies beautifully… on her own terms.
Blackbird shows that euthanasia can be just as polarising in a family let alone in a community that cannot let go of the old ways and the fact that death comes knocking in some form to everyone, every day and everywhere… sometimes debilitatingly painfully.
If the individual who is still fairly lucid, or a family, decides it’s time to pull the plug… It’s been a case of not prolonging the trauma and the ever-present agony of PTSD which remains within loved ones who witness a prolonged death in the family… often after an interminable on/off coma. Think censoring children. And an uncaring nurse finally dealing an overdose while those who are not savvy are at home asleep… Wow, you said: It happened between two and three in the morning… how about that call I got?! Strange isn’t it and not my idea of heaven.
As for dysfunctional people being seen as dissenters who cause the most trouble about this issue – on a political level – there should be no question the DYSFUNCTION exists not only in terms of the Catholic church – or are you an enlightened believer/spy who already agrees with me? The death of the individual should be a government funded (especially for the poor) private function or simply decisive and premeditated euthanasia where the individual may celebrate death – before and as they die and with their closest friends and family! It sounds awful but there are possibilities…
I saw my friend Janette/Jan, who was given ECT in the 1950s to cure her depression, die a lingering death in palliative care five years ago after she slipped and fell on her head in the dining room of her nursing home aged 82… the poor girl was always having falls, but the was lucid when she was dealt palliative care instead of having her head mended. She broke her crown or Humpy Dumpty… I’m sure Rupert Murdoch, when he hit his head on his yacht the other year wasn’t dealt into palliative care immediately… I mean all the king’s horses really could perform miracles as you know. Jan lost her mother during the Great Depression in Victoria while not yet five years old… I didn’t want her money as we regularly ate lunch together.
I watched Jan slowly waste away as her loving family also visited her… As the caring doctors changed her, I stood outside and heard a nurse say to her: “I can see in your sunken eyes you don’t want to be here… do you?” as Jan suffered and withered away in silence only to utter: “Beautiful, isn’t it?” as she finally remarked about the view from the window of her room as I sat watching television with her as she lay dying. It was a better view than the television! Widowed Jan and I were platonic lovers, Greek Nazi that I am! But that view wasn’t guaranteed… Sadly, Jan’s crime was that she didn’t die quickly enough and was threatened to be dealt into a nursing home to die…
Further humiliation due to a lack of beds in palliative care. She would lose her room with a view. It was something which traumatised her daughter Anne, a caring woman who worked two jobs to support her unit mortgage and who was driven to alcoholism from caring for her vegetative son Freddy who was born profoundly disabled and died aged 14 of pneumonia. Jan is buried with him and her husband who died years earlier from cancer. Freddy’s father was a famous Nine sports journalist who traded Anne and his son in for a younger model… Talk about a nightmare! Anne said to me as her mother lay dying in her room when she learnt her bed was up for quids: “Jason, if you ever become a journalist again, please write about what you have seen here.”
I read an article by journalist Peter Gleeson in the local rag and while I don’t necessarily agree with his conservative politics, I couldn’t help but be moved by his story of his working-class Port Kembla born brother – he was born in 1967 – who passed away after a long battle with cancer. He saw first-hand the dysfunction in palliative care… and human suffering.
Anne, I hope your prayers have been answered after her mother was probably dealt a green needle in the middle of the night once pneumonia had set in… just like my Catholic friend Hazel was dealt a needle after lapsing into pneumonia among the rotting flowers sent by her lawyers after signing her belongings over to the local Catholic priest – give to a foundation instead once the kids have their portion! Not a conspiracy.
“I’m greedy,” to quote Father Peter’s little joke about the Seven Deadly Sins verbatim over Hazel’s deathbed as she lay in a ‘coma’. She loved Father Peter and I told her he rushed straight from the airport from overseas to see her just before she died. I lied but she took comfort. True believer black African father Oliver gave Hazel the last rights/rites as he nodded at my presence and as she clutched her crucifix and said: “I love you Jesus” with all of her heart. I welled up. And later the jaded nurses said as she willed herself into pneumonia: “She’s away with the fairies” and I left for home as they gaslit me about whether I should try and get her a new set of pyjamas. Well bitches, Hazel had the last laugh! I hope. At least I organised her friend Lucie Arnaz to call her as Hazel curled up to die since Hazel was a personal friend of Lucille Ball and would stay for days at her home in Los Angeles and in Debbie Reynold’s beach shack. I have the photos! All due to her catholic Godfather knowing Ball personally… She also loved Greta Garbo and would sunbake with all the girls who lived together on the top of a skyscraper in their own Garden of Eden/Allah. There were once true Catholic believers unmolested by reality. I really knew and understood Hazel. And father peter showed three photos at her tacky funeral as head of the ring… They even got the colour of the roses on the coffin wrong as per her wishes… She wanted red ones painted on the coffin itself. Too expensive! As for the two grand in cash in her bedroom drawer she withdrew from the Commonwealth before her hospitalization…
“How do you like them apples? … Your professionalism makes me want to die!” says a bitter and acid tongued Dreyfuss to a social worker he has been dealt in Whose Life is it Anyway?
I have another friend called Jan/Janice who lives in Lismore who had to suffer the indignity of watching her mother fade away for nearly a decade in a bed in a nursing home as dementia took its humiliating toll. Jan’s brother meanwhile took all her mother’s money from her bank account to feed a gambling addiction to pokies… Say no more. It all seems a bit of a blur now in terms of tragedy in the community…
“I like to think that people who commit suicide don’t go to hell” said my friend James whose brother committed suicide after their childhood was marred by a violent Greek father which left three of his four sons dysfunctional – including James.
James is a devout believer in God and Jesus who was fooled enough to donate a fortune to a guy named Creflo Dollar on the telly … but suicide/euthanasia is a moot point for the Christian community to deny their own community. Yes, George Pell knew about the abuse… and let’s clean up a paper trail while I’m Cardinal too, eh George! And yet there is a clause in Catholicism that is little known which allows the abuse of those in palliative care to legitimately come to an end. More later…
Whose Life is it Anyway? is the perfect title for this movie as we must make our own magic potion of laws which allows a person and their families to avoid PTSD as well as the immense emotional and personal suffering and pain which compounds it all… death!
I think even a former National-Liberal Party Premier has come out in support of this issue after watching his mother die slowly of dementia… I won’t mention the name. Past memories can be ruined by last ones…. And the issue of a family uniting to give consent can be difficult in terms of the demented. Whose Life is it Anyway? Make the decision.
Guess what? Even myself in my early 20s thought the right to die and euthanasia dealer Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a murderer … How unenlightened I was as I told this to the poetess who supported the debate some thirty years ago. I was wrong, I’m afraid. A callow youth.
“Don’t you think I have the same rights as an axe murderer?” asks Dreyfuss about the practise of putting prisoners into electric chairs while a loved one must suffer in a cell or room like they themselves had committed a murder – when all they want to do is commit their own… peacefully and amongst loved ones. Dreyfuss just wants to have the right to give up dialysis and go home and die – just like Kerry Packer chose in the end.
But guess what the hospital does next? They call Dreyfuss a mad malingerer and decide to keep him alive in hospital anyway rather than go back to his apartment – he had no family – and die at home or behind a drawn hospital curtain. I tried to get Hazel the support to die at home but my naivete saw me thwarted at every turn… It all comes down to brokering your death if you have the money. Other poor people must suffer pain and indignity among strangers. Farmer, labourer or whatever… And it’s left up to politicians to debate in public! Heroic mass debaters are the male politicians of today now haunted by the urinal!!
“He’s a staunch Catholic” says one consulting doctor in the Dreyfuss movie about the psychologist who is chosen to invalidate Dreyfuss and keep him in hospital alive for as long as the racket can keep him there. It seems like a local plot yet again in terms of dear Hazel, especially for the individual without a family of her own…. Whom the evil closed their ‘ring’ like wolves in for the kill. Papal ring anyone? Gollum? ‘Don’t hassle me, I’m local’ was the tee shirt worn by Bill Murray in What about Bob? (1991) as he slowly drove his psychiatrist Richard Dreyfuss insane! Good movie.
I’ll throw in a Frank Sinatra joke when fellow Italian-American Don Rickles said that Sinatra always insisted they kiss his ring, but it was a pity he always kept it in his back pocket!! Nice suits though along with all the sober and drunken pageantry of “The Rat Pack”. Our generation is now the freedom of The Brat Back!
The consulting doctor in Whose Life is it Anyway? is played by George Weiner of Dogs (1976) fame … as the camera watches and records every word of Dreyfuss as another doctor also makes his decision from remote control about his fate … Whose Life is it Anyway? is a bloody good movie and hasn’t been released properly for some reason. I bought a Spanish DVD years ago.
As a ‘malingerer’, Dreyfuss must ‘linger’ and suffer indignity and humiliation as his mental health possibly gets worse and worse… like some kind of Catch-22 (1970) … possibly an incurable basket case in the end in terms of his mental health as he is forever forgotten by ‘the system’.
This catholic/Catholic society of doctors who “support each other’s mistakes” as one of the doctors is named Emerson like philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson of the Circles essay which marvelled at the beauty of rings while this society of possible evil doppelgangers is morally repellent in this movie. Cassavetes means well as he calls the shots. The frustration of those who must suffer the indignity of cancer in particular for hours on end with only narcotics to control the pain if it can be controlled… need not happen. Guess what?
Who’s not to say that those who are pure of heart won’t go through a light at the end of the tunnel and there you see your loved ones who have already died along with your favourite movie stars and even Elvis Presley as they all say: “Surprise!” and offer you a piece of cake … in heaven. Better than suffering intense and interminably pain for weeks or even months while praying for this to happen! Loved ones sang the Bowie song ‘Starman’ around Alexis Arquette (1969-2016) in acapella form as he succumbed to AIDS…
The universe is still full of possibilities in terms of the white dots of our souls hopping around the place … Anything is possible! … And like a foreskin, euthanasia is still ‘optional’.
Whose Life is it Anyway? was directed by the prophetic director John Badham (1939-) who made WarGames (1993) and Short Circuit (1986) not to mention Saturday Night Fever (1977). Badham takes the play by English writer Brian Clark (1932-) who wrote The Twilight Zone episode called The Incredible Woes of Horace Ford about a man who wanted a son but instead is called mad for remembering his days of when he was kicked out of his neighbourhood gang/ring … he didn’t quite get over it! And no one seems to understand. Clark also wrote that ode to Celtic naturalism The Wild Geese (1978). The Australian Jeremy Irons flick The Wild Duck (1985) unrelated except in terms of the rhyme within its title.
Whose Life is it Anyway? shows the hope of the future in terms of women doctors in the form of Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope and Law and Order) while the hope in terms of men is a black male West Indian nurse who deflates and disarms Dreyfuss’ bitterness with the departing after a good laugh together: “I’ve seen you naked.” Not as big as a black man whose sense of humour is far blacker. This play was written by an Englishman remember?
The Sistine Chapel beautiful ceiling argument painted by the gay Michelangelo – he left the statue of King David uncircumcised remember – that God gives the spark of life to man in his own image as against the possibility we rose from primordial goop along with the dinosaurs … As individuals we just add a spark of life, a white in the corner of your eyes momentarily and some gut instinct… and there you have man and woman. Otherwise, you’re treated like an alien… as they plotted and then forgot you in their quest for ill-gotten gains.
Lahti was appearing in The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway and my friend Janice with the ailing and demented mother in Lismore was at a performance in New York when someone in the audience died mid-way. It happens. It happened at the cinema where I was an usher one time when someone had a heart attack. Lahti obviously loves the material and its repression over the years in the United States possibly showed an inability to face the issue until now.
Along for the ride in the cast is the alcoholic actor Kenneth McMillan – he who adored Sting in Dune (1984). He is a modern day and openminded judge willing to listen to Dreyfuss and his plight once a lawyer has been called to sort out the dilemma … McMillan understands the law and knows the important decisions made and often forgotten over the years by others which could validate Dreyfuss in the eyes of the law… and set him free.
This is the argument in terms of the importance of new statutes or laws and decisions which already exist and how they currently cause delays in court as massive spending on lawyers could be avoided by the poor by simply passing a new law which can allow – the right to die with dignity and on your own terms. Not every member of Parliament is a closed-minded lawyer!
We must remember that suicide or attempting suicide used to be a crime here in Oz and it is touched on in the original version of Wake in Fright (1970) when Chips Rafferty ‘understands’ that Gary Bond didn’t put the gun to his head and pull the trigger but instead ‘dropped the gun on the ground’ when he interviews him in hospital to avoid him being charged for attempted suicide and possibly going to jail as a result.
I was only a young kid when the case of Karen Ann Quinlan (1954-85 pneumonia) became a phenomenon in the newspaper headlines… It was the first case of a family being allowed to pull the plug on their daughter after she became a vegetable following a bad reaction to alcohol and Valium… The state of New Jersey did not agree to turn the respirator off and to further complicate matters Karen’s parents were Catholic. Karen’s case was one of “Catholic moral theology” which led to the girl’s parents approaching the Vatican under the guise that its philosophy does not require “extraordinary means” to be used to keep a person alive… It’s almost a clause… and for the conservative Catholic who still believes in the artifice of white smoke through a chimney dealt by men dressed in silly costumes wearing skull caps … it is your saving grace to allow the plug to be pulled by your family on yourself today … now we ask for permission to go a step further.
I guess prayers and Karen’s untapped will to live, or her own youth, saw her linger in a coma for almost another decade after the respirator was turned off…. Common practise these days to pull ‘the plug’. But that next step wasn’t offered. It must have been torture for the Quinlan family as pneumonia and the jaded green needle givers finally gave the green light… Those legal dealers of death who are seen as committing no crime are not all bad and they can and usually are a ‘mercy killing’ when done by the right person and facility. It’s common practise too and I shouldn’t complain about it as it has helped end the lives of long-suffering individuals. I don’t disagree with that practise but these female nurses/women were bitches when it came to the beauty and pure worship of 93-year-old Hazel as she lay there within earshot of their witchcraft. I worshiped in a different way.
My friend Alan who was Janice’s partner and whom Jan and I both loved and admired – a Briton who introduced his friends in Morocco to The White Album among his many travels – was dealt palliative care and tried to escape… such are the reactions of some people when they are told they must die in a hospital bed when he really wanted to go home! Alan’s favourite movies were of the science fiction variety and one of them was Soylent Green (1973) starring Charlton Heston. What a handshake! … and while most people remember it as a movie about people eating people in biscuit form… The most touching aspect of this ‘dystopian’ view of society within Soylent Green is that it offered euthanasia to those who were old and sick in the most beautiful form you could imagine. The patient was dealt a requested overdose while still lucid and surrounded by a widescreen cinema screen playing majestic images of sweeping natural vistas while great stereophonic sound plays the music of your choice. Sounds like heaven… The actor Edward G. Robinson – Key Largo (1948) – was actually dying of cancer in reality in this his final movie and in terms of the divinity of the cinema it was his plea for euthanasia to be universal. This is also an MGM movie and Robinson reverted to his Jewish roots by playing a character named Sol Roth – Robinson’s real name was Goldenberg and he was born in Romania that Latin speaking country in Eastern Europe. Thus, the scene in Soylent Green has more resonance and stays relevant today… whether if its Victoria Falls and Beethoven or Ozzy Osbourne and The Devil’s Rejects (2005) you want to hear and see as you leave this world ringing in your ears as your pupils become fixed and dilated… Voila and “Surprise!” sang Elvis. A bit or a little slice of heaven!!
It’s a possible new industry within the hospitals or even for specially built cinemas or churches for people to sit in comfortable chairs with their loved ones – you could even have a double header of your bucket list movies as opposed to the scaled down version of taking your potion alone in front of your Smart TV with soundbar…. The cinema as a conduit for ‘heaven’ as loved ones weep earnestly over your ‘living death’ – and forget zombies – as a soul can literally transmigrate to heaven or whatever as they swig a chalice of potion … or ‘Hell’, if they weren’t that nice. I’m sure those people take their horrors with them! But you don’t have to turn up, so it doesn’t matter.
Such are the possibilities of legalising euthanasia and celebrating life to the maximum. We’ve moved on since Chips Rafferty in Wake in Fright and Chips wore a sarong on his island home in Sydney Harbour like my friend Alan would occasionally wear one around the house.
“It’s caca,” says Dreyfuss about staying alive on Sustagen Gold rather than the hope contained within the children singing along to the song: “I’ll take you riding in my car-car…” Tee-hee. Please spare young children the suffering of their young parents dying oh, so horribly and slowly in front of their eyes of brain or lung or skin cancer or pancreatic cancer…. Or whatever. As these children weep uncontrollably over a wicker basket alone once the funeral rites have ended in live streaming and suffering the PTSD of long bouts of chemo and the prolonged agony of endless palliative care. I saw it online at the funeral of News Limited family member David (born at Glenelg in the early 1970s) with his ring willy and outie and hole in the heart who said as a child he wanted to marry a boy and a girl in his Canberra suburban street… His mother joked: “I think he’s the only bisexual on the street!” I remember Marg…
Finally, to quote Chico Marx over a legal argument as to whether a person wants to commit to a contract that allows them to kill themselves with dignity: “There aint no sanity clause!” It’s not hard to comprehend an end to hypocrisy. And the return of ‘true faith’ within an enlightened Catholic church.
The movie The Love Machine (1971) calls it “the morals clause” in their AC/DC universe and overall, the Catholic church lets you think what to vote in terms of your conscience and doesn’t control how you vote in elections …. That’s reality! Dare to dream Big (1988)!!
We murder cows ‘en masse’ by a bolt to the head, on The Earth, and yet humans seem to be somehow more special even if the meat is kosher … We naturally don’t like to be murdered by others which is a part of the ridiculousness of it all!!
“Religion is flawed because men are flawed, like this one” is the universal chant of the new enlightened pope played by Stellan Skarsgard at the end of Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons (2009). I wonder if nudist Skarsgard wears underwear under his robes? Surely not anymore… Anyway, they’ve designed a less ambiguous and dated costume for/fore this movie. Yes?
Please view the movie Whose Life is it Anyway? to see if Richard Dreyfuss gets his wish or if he will change his mind!!! If you can’t then just ask yourself have you been struck by a lightning bolt of your own creation? Don’t let Frank N Furter kill you instead as you consider this decision as easily as another raw prawn on/in the barbie/Barbie!!! Let alone Klaus Barbie.