GUEST POST: A new film exploring a dystopian future in which Japan tries to pay elderly people to kill themselves is making waves, and the premise is too close to home for comfort. “Plan 75″ by Japanese director and writer Chie Hayakawa is “quietly devastating” audiences at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hayakawa imagines a not-so-distant future in which all residents of Japan over the age of 75 are offered—and encouraged to accept—assisted suicide. The plan succeeds by capitalizing on the appeal of Japan’s “history of sacrifice.” If an elderly person is still not convinced, Plan 75 offers applicants a small sum of money to spend as the wish. The hesitant are enticed by promises like being able to eat in a restaurant with the money.
In Japan, 30 percent of the population is over 65, and that figure is expected to increase in the coming years. The burden of caring for the aging population falls to the dwindling younger generations, a reality that Hayakawa says has made many young people bitter.
Hayakawa said in an interview, “The ageing of the population is not a recent problem, I’ve always heard people discussing it.” Sh added, “When I was young, a long life was considered to be a good thing, people had respect for older people. That’s no longer the case.”
As we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic, governments are incentivized to ration care by applying inhumane assessments of an individual’s worth. One measure, known as quality adjusted life years (QALYs), is already used by public and private insurers to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of treatment. When governments and medical professionals begin to subjectively value some human beings more than others, killing is often not far behind.
What is most disturbing about the premise of Hayakawa’s film is how feasible it is in the real world. As part of her research in writing was interviewing 15 elderly women in Japan; all of them said they would take part in Plan 75 if it was available. The reason? “They don’t want to be a burden.”
“On the face of it, the government’s Plan 75 is full of goodwill and friendliness and pragmatism, but in truth it is both very cruel and shameful,” Hayakawa said. “It would alleviate the stress of wondering how they can survive once they are alone. Choosing the moment and the method of their death could be very reassuring.”
As so often happens with assisted suicide rhetoric, the emphasis is on choice and comfort, but the reality of legal assisted suicide is that the right to die can quickly become a duty to die. The convenience of Plan 75 for young people who have grown resentful of their elders is obvious. Hayakawa said, “If such a plan was on the table today, I believe that many people would accept it, even welcome it as a viable solution.”
The parallels to abortion are striking. Those in the prime of life view the vulnerable as a burden and want to eliminate them. The declining physical abilities and ailments of aging are seen as valid reasons for taking human life, just as the potential for poverty, physical disability, or suffering is seen as a justification for abortion.
While “Plan 75” should stay firmly in the realm of science-fiction, along with “Logan’s Run” and “Soylent Green,” it may soon become a reality with which our culture will have to grapple. Japan is far from alone in having an aging population and events like the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the stress of such a threat to the medical system.
Throughout industrialized nations, advocacy organizations have been agitating for decades for legal assisted suicide. There have already been countless examples of healthy people killed because of situations that could have been alleviated. Those with disabilities or chronic illness are no less valuable than any other person, and their lives deserve protection and freedom from coercion.
Many pro-lifers have noted that all the people defending abortion have been born. It now seems the same lies that allow people to justify the legal killing of the preborn means that all lives are at risk. Unless those demanding legal abortion wake up, they may find that one day the culture will be calling for their elimination, too.
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