Ken Connor

Unfortunately for the Boomers, American culture has shifted from sanctity of life to a quality of life ethic. And, longevity comes with a price. Old folks with dementia and disabilities cost more to maintain than they produce. Consequently, Grandma is now free (and encouraged) to evaluate whether she has a life "worth living." Once dementia or disability hit, the encouraged answer will be "no." A bad economy coupled with this new quality of life ethos makes the answer obvious. Soon, over-taxed young people will be asking, "Grandma, are you really sure you're happy?"

The young will be all the more happy to unload Grandma, because she’s likely to be living with them. By 2030, more than 3 million people will be trying to get into nursing homes (twice the number in 1995). We currently have only 1.9 million beds and 87% of these are already full.

Once the problem gets bad enough, it will be easy for our politicians to find other ways to encourage elderly resource hogs to “off” themselves. Maybe the pols will offer Boomsday-style estate tax breaks intended to encourage an early exit before incurring high end-of-life medical costs.

Of course, it will be all framed in the name of autonomy and choice, self-sacrifice and love. But mark it down: the right to die will become the duty to die. After all, you've lived a long life -- why be a burden to your children? Give them the financial opportunity to live a full and happy life. Your early exit can be your final gift to them—your final sacrifice for them!

This is not some far-off fantastical future. The next few years will see massive dislocations in our social services network. Our bad economy and the ever-growing expenses of an aging population will make assisted suicide an attractive option. If we do not once again come to value human life, we'll take the final step to embrace a culture of death.

It's not all that far-fetched.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.