A few weeks ago we watched a film excerpt about a man who was a quadriplegic and wanted to die. Exciting. I know that this was quite a while ago, but I never got the chance to write about the issue as much as I would have liked to.
Can one’s life be stripped of dignity? In the movie The Sea Inside, Ramon Sampedro fights for his life not for its salvage, but for its end. Sampedro was an active young adult who suffered a tragic injury that left him a quadriplegic. After the injury, Sampedro found no further purpose in his life. Yet, at this point in time euthanasia was not a legal option. Sampedro claimed that his life was pointless, and that all of his dignity was lost. This is where I struggle. Does your dignity reside in your physical capability? Granted, I have no idea of what it is like to be in Sampedro’s position. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live as a quadriplegic and Sampedro lived like that for over twenty years. I can’t fathom, however, how you can lose all hope for your life. Live for your mind, not your body. As the class watched the film, I kept trying to put myself in his position. If I was stuck in a chair or bed my entire life, would I want to die, too? Yes. He lost his body from the neck down. But he still had his mind. That is the most powerful thing we have. Is there no way to live a life of dignity with your mind? Once again, I have no idea what it is like to be in his position. I am speaking from a completely biased and naïve standpoint. I simply don’t understand how you can have nothing to live for simply because you are immobile. Live for family, friends, loved ones. You control your dignity—your legs don’t.
I respect Sampedro, and I truly do sympathize with his condition. Although my perspective may be completely off-base, I struggle with his decision to end his life. Life is a gift and a privilege. Sampedro decided to return the greatest gift one can receive. He believed in his heart of hearts that his life had no point. I beg to differ. His life, the basis of this film, had an impact on all who watched it. His life had a tremendous impact, positive or negative, on everyone who witnessed it.
Indeed, The Sea Inside is a not-so-subtle polemic on the subject of one’s moral right to die. Ramón, for example, mentions how humiliating and degrading it is to be living in his condition, but his colleagues never venture into those dark and private corners of his existence — the lack of personal control and dignity, the yearning for sex and physical adventure, and the very terror of immobility — to show us why his struggle is so crucial to him. The movie, instead, relies on dialogue scattered with moral and religious conversation. But these are just words, after all, batted back and forth between characters, never managing the emotional resonance that a more sensitive, imaginative approach could’ve yielded.