Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Response to Million Dollar Baby

It was discussed in class whether euthanizing the Maggie Fitzgerald was ethical. I do not think that it was. She had just recently experienced a life altering injury that resulted in her losing everything that she enjoyed in her life. It would make sense that she would be severely depressed for a long period of time after this. However, if she had been kept alive longer and if she had given life as a quadriplegic a chance, she could have found a new calling. After making it through the suffering and into this new calling she would probably come out stronger and realize how precious life is. This can be seen to an extent in The Bucket List. In this movie the two main characters discover that they are terminally ill. Instead of wallowing in self pity and just sitting and waiting until death comes, they go out and try to fulfill their bucket list. Through this journey both characters learn just how important their family is and Edward Cole, the billionaire who finances the trip, tracks down his only daughter as a result. Instead of succumbing to self pity and giving up, Edward Cole is able to find more joy than he had before by being accepted back by his daughter and subsequently meeting his granddaughter. Of course the type of pain and loss that Maggie experienced is much greater than what the two characters in The Bucket List experienced, but the greater suffering could have easily led to even greater joy. If Frankie, the one who ended up euthanizing Maggie, had instead focused on trying to help her through her depression and make her see that she had him as “family” now,  Maggie might have eventually been happier than she was before the injury.


  1. There's something I'd like to point out here. Specifically, I'd like to discuss the difference between Edward Cole and Maggie Fitzgerald and their states of existence.

    Edward Cole's entire life had been about business and effective action. He's an unsympathetic, efficient human being with little respect for others' dignity. He's very rich, and he has no friends. He treats his assistant badly, refusing to even call the man by his given name, and he initially refuses to share a room with Morgan Freeman's character.
    My point about him, and the movie's point too, I think, is that he hasn't really lived as he wished he could. His estrangement from his daughter bothers him; it's his primary regret.
    Also, Cole doesn't want to die - he was going to die, and soon. He was fighting against an unwanted but unavoidable death. But his regrets are a more relevant consideration for my argument.

    And here's where Cole's different from Maggie: she has no regrets. Boxing has brought her everything she wanted and more. She became relatively famous, she saw Europe, and she came to terms with her relationship with her biological family. Her family hates her, and no matter how successful she becomes, they will never accept her - rather, they will probably resent her even more. Frankie and boxing are all she has, and her whole relationship with Frankie (and her primary source of self-esteem) comes from boxing. Cut out the boxing, and she's not got much left. Even if Frankie cares for her, he'll never have that pride in his eyes again, and she'll never feel that good about herself again.
    But there's more to it than just that. Maggie didn't just ask Frankie to euthanize her the moment she broke her neck. No, by the time she asks Frankie to do what seems unthinkable, she's been bedridden for some time. She'd suffered serious bedsores and had lost a leg to hospital-borne infection. One more sorrow she faced while in the hospital is her ungrateful family. Their only concern is how soon they'll get her assets.
    Add the fact that Maggie will never leave that bed to the list of ugliness that now besets her, and it makes sense that she sees herself as at the end of a well-lived life. Sure, you can say "she'll improve her quality of life, maybe," but it'll never be as good as it was when she had exactly what she wanted.
    The film also makes clear that, more than anything else, Frankie sees Maggie as a surrogate for his own estranged daughter. So she really wouldn't have family, even if she decided to live – she would be a pale shadow of someone living and healthy.

    Edward Cole wants to make good memories before he dies. Maggie Fitzgerald wants to die before her good memories fade.

    Also, am I the only one who thinks “Family is important” is a really inappropriate aesop for a story about two men dying of cancer? Like Rob Reiner treated the whole subject matter with total disrespect and flippancy? It feels like buying a terminal cancer patient a ten-cent greeting card with a picture of a cat and "Hang in there!" in a kitschy font.

  2. I see what you mean Griffin and your objections definitely are valid, but it leaves me wondering about people whose greatest accomplishments happened very early on in their life. Would they have nothing left to live for? And how do we know when we can not achieve more?

  3. great exchange here regarding ethics, personal identity, freedom of choice, stoicism..."Edward Cole wants to make good memories before he dies. Maggie Fitzgerald wants to die before her good memories fade."--nice comparative analysis.