Human Exceptionalism

The No Longer Shocking Assisted Suicide Scene from Soylent Green

I was shocked by this assisted suicide scene when Soylent Green first came out-in the early 1970s–and believe me, I was not alone. As the audience left the theater, we assured ourselves, “It can’t happen here.”

How wrong we were. No one dreamed that less than 40 years later assisted suicide clinics exactly tike the one depicted in the movie–absent the beautiful videos–would legally operate in Switzerland, and would service hundreds of people from around the world. Had you told us that a ghoul named Jack Kevorkian, who dreamed of conducting human vivisection, would assist the suicides of some 130 (mostly disabled) people to general societal applause, we would have thought you mad.

We had no idea that as the movie was playing around the world, a Dutch judge would quasi legalize euthanasia, resulting in the Netherlands careening off a moral cliff to the point that physicians would proudly write treateses in learned medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, about how they lethally inject seriuosly ill and disabled babies. Nor would we have believed that in Oregon, doctors would prescribe lethal prescriptions for patients they had never met–much less treated–before being consulted by a patient wanting to be made dead.

Back to SG: Sol, the E.G. Robinson character, kills himself because he can no longer live in the dystopian future depicted in the movie–which includes government tyranny, a priviledged life for the elite while the rest live in chaos (also a theme in Blade Runner), rampant financial corruption, and such over crowding that all the wild places are gone. Sol has solved the mystery of Soylent Green and asks his cop pal Thorn, played by Charlton Heston, to “prove” that he is right.

This clip skips the scenes after the assisted suicide, in which Thorn follows Sol’s body to a processing plant, and cuts to the climax in which Charlton Heston screams what became an iconic line in movie history.

I have brought this scene up in discussing euthanasia/assisted suicide more than once here at SHS, and it occurred to me that some of you might not have seen it. For your consideration…

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