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Lunatics running the asylum - R.H. Joseph

It's hard to say why Monday morning's fax from Georgia Right to Life irritated me more than their usual stuff, but it did.

Mind your own business! Stay out of other people's lives!

Their latest presumptuous interference in someone else's affairs has to do with some poor guy in Florida whose comatose wife has been kept alive by a feeding tube for the past 12 years.

While the courts have granted the husband the right to remove the tube and let her slip away these alleged "right to life" busybodies are inserting themselves into this most intimate right to life issue: how do you care for yourself and your beloved when death beckons?

The religious zealots have been permitted to define "right to life" as a mandate to cling to life at all costs. This is not what the phrase means; it is what they assert it means. They are wrong.

In this case the self-obsession underlying religious conservatism manifests as the pathological fear of the extinction of the self.

By all means, there should be an inalienable right to life but the concept necessarily embraces the totality of being, that is to say, life's conclusion. And this most profound decision must reside with the individual or with the union that has rendered two one.

Never should such decisions be the responsibility of any entity beyond the rational adult(s), not a religious institution, not the state, and most certainly not a bunch of presumptuous meddlers.

The arrogant intrusiveness of what tend to be religious nuts truly hit home when the lump in my neck was diagnosed as a manifestation of Stage Four cancer. There is no Stage Five. Death had come a'knockin'.

The doctors presented my options: either they could cut out my tongue and replace it with a chunk of meat from my leg so the roof of my mouth wouldn't collapse, or I could undergo 40 consecutive radiation treatments and a concurrent program of chemotherapy.

Mind you, the latter combination was not offered as a cure, merely an alternative opportunity. When it was all over the closest attention would be paid for a number of years utilizing CAT scans. If the prophylaxis failed it was back to the tongue/meat scenario.

Harrowing as the treatment is – Those who have been through it know its consequence cannot be adequately communicated. – for one such as I, an aesthete who revels in the pleasures of the flesh, the removal of my tongue could never be a first choice. So the question loomed, if the treatment doesn't work do I pull the plug?

The question had to be examined and resolved by the two of us who had become one.

The situation I faced resembled that of cancer patients suffering unremitting pain. Religious zealots have done everything they can to prevent access to marijuana by these unfortunate folk.

Consider the thought process (or lack thereof) underlying such an effort. The fact that the drug is said to work is irrelevant to these zealots for the substance has been demonized. It has been declared inherently evil and therefore whatever ameliorative qualities it might possess are perceived to be irrelevant. This defines primitive.

Untouched by the Enlightenment, a stratum of society has clung to superstition and fear, rendering current the worst aspects of humanity's darkest epochs.

These people are not logical. Their lives are ruled by fear, fear of injury to the self, fear of the extinction of the self.

So, like those riddled with pain, I had been left with no viable option regarding the termination of my existence. The frightened illogic of religious primitives had caused all possible avenues leading to a simple, peaceful exit from this mortal coil to be blocked.

"Suicide is a coward's way out," claim the frightened in an effort to legitimize their fear.

Nonsense! The deliberate cessation of one's life is simply one more choice in a life defined by the freedom to choose. It is neither an act of bravery nor an act of cowardice.

The fearful imbue the act with such consequence because of their self-obsession. I have seen them in the cancer wards crippled by their fear of death.

How ironic that those who spend their time interfering in other people's lives, contending their way is the right way and attempting to deny others the freedom to choose, tremble when faced with life's inevitable transition.

That the self-obsessed will do whatever they can to postpone the moment is understandable. That they attempt to give credence to their self-obsession, claiming a divine decree compels them to countermine life's ineluctable flow, is ludicrous.

Worse still, through effective politicization of their class they have insinuated themselves into America's corridors of power. We have allowed our most primitive, self-obsessed stratum to legislate self-obsession.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.