I went to see Me Before You with every intention of hating it. The criticisms I’ve read about its pro-euthanasia message are valid and worth reading. I haven’t yet read the book, so my opinion is two-dimensional at best.
But honestly? What I saw did not communicate, “All physically disabled people should kill themselves because their lives are not as meaningful as those of able-bodied people.” What I saw was a story of one man’s decision to end his life, for reasons that the criticisms I read neglected to mention.
The critics gave me the impression that Will Traynor was healthy in every way except that his legs didn’t work. Had that been the case, and he chose euthanasia anyway, I would have been angry. But the reviews didn’t mention the other complications from his motorcycle accident: being paralyzed from the neck down, the bouts of pneumonia from a weakened immune system, the dangerous roller coaster of body temperature, the constant physical pain and, most pertinent of all, the prognosis of the doctors that Will’s condition would kill him sooner rather than later. This, I’m assuming, is not the prognosis of most people who live the majority of their lives in wheelchairs.
I don’t condone or celebrate Will’s decision as “brave” (a sticky adjective that leaves a bad taste in my mouth). But I understand it. It’s a decision my father considered, as the cancer metastasized and reduced his life to mere existence, not real living. In the end, euthanasia was not the course he chose, but in the final weeks he remained alive he was not the father I knew. He was a shell of the person who raised me. If there is anything remotely positive to glean from euthanasia in this circumstance, it’s that my father and the rest of my family would have been spared the suffering of having to watch as he literally wasted away.
That being said, I understand why the decision remains controversial. I don’t think I could ever do it. It will likely always make me uneasy, and should never be the go-to solution without careful consideration of prognoses given by medical experts. It is, ultimately, a choice one makes between his family, his doctors, and God.
There was a time when this issue was black and white for me. As a self-described pro-lifer, the idea of ending a life by unnatural means abhorred me. But I don’t have the luxury of certainty anymore, after what I’ve seen. I wager that many people who consider euthanasia no different than cold-blooded murder have never been in a situation like the one I had during the summer of 2014. Everything looks simple from the outside looking in, when real feelings and real suffering are hypothetical, not a daily reality.