Elliot wrote:The film I mentioned yesterday is Whose Life Is It Anyway, with Richard Dreyfuss. I don't remember seeing it, but it deals with this problem -- Dreyfuss portrays a suffering quadriplegic.
I haven't seen "Whose Life is it Anyway", but the one that comes to mind is "Le scaphandre et le papillon" ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"). (Picking the relevant parts of my own blog post ...) It’s about a guy who was perfectly healthy until a stroke rendered him completely paralyzed except for being able to move and blink his left eye. He starts out feeling trapped, depressed, and annoyed. It’s an interesting movie exploring the will to live and the human need to find contentment and happiness in any situation.
Often people say how amazing it is what he went through, but in a way, it was more a demonstration of necessity: because of his condition, there was no way for him to kill himself — in fact, it was because of the quality of health care he received that kept him alive at all, so in a way, it wasn’t that he was unable to kill himself, but that he was unable to prevent others from keeping him alive.
But it also demonstrates that there appears to be a level of personal happiness that is unrelated to one’s life condition. If happiness truly were tied to one’s life condition, then extremely well-off people would be constantly overjoyed and poor people would beg for brevity in their miserable existences. And remarkably, it seems to have no limits. It’s challenging to imagine a worse fate than being completely paralyzed and kept alive irrelevant to your consent. Yet here was Jean-Dominique Bauby (the character was based on a real person) who lived that very nightmare. His personal disposition — once the trauma of the sudden, dramatic change in his life wore off — seemed to return to a level not dissimilar to himself in his past, fully ambulatory life.
So I guess when it comes to misery and suicide, I have to wonder how much is innate (one's default mood) and how much of it is circumstantial. And of the part that's innate, how moral is it to manipulate that with drugs? So if someone is innately miserable all the time no matter what the circumstances, I can see how it makes sense to chemically manipulate jeir brain so jee has a more pleasant existence. But if one is miserable because, say, jee can see living jeir whole life working in cubicles and whose only purpose is to simply exist and consume resources, I think it's less about a defective brain and more about a defective society.
And now I have more questions than answers. Maybe ideally believing in one another — that each of us should seek joy in life and that seeking that joy is the most important thing.