Savor the victory. The power structure conspired to perpetuate hell for Mildred and Elwood "Woody" Osman of Cherryville, but they prevailed.
The only real crime here, the only real atrocity, is that the Osmans had no other option except to let the smug power structure have its way.
The .38 is a powerful handgun, and those of us who have seen what such weapons do, especially if aimed at one's head, know how gruesome those last moments must have been. Also, the shots were loud enough to be heard elsewhere in the hospital, which had to be a terrible experience for many people, to say nothing of what the hospital staff had to deal with.
These were not gentle and dignified deaths, the kind now allowed in Oregon and Washington, and for many decades in the enlightened culture of Switzerland. They were ghastly, forced upon a powerless couple by an evil and oppressive system.
Three elements of the power structure have strong motives for preventing people who are suffering and hopelessly ill from choosing death with dignity: The joy of tyranny imposed by many in government, the lust for dogmatic domination harbored by many religious leaders, and the greed rationalized by the medical establishment. (I'm not saying greed was a factor in this week's tragedy, but I think it's a factor that motivates the medical profession, generally, when it comes to this issue.)
News accounts said Mildred Osman, 83, had lost her eyesight and was in tremendous pain — beyond the reach of palliative drugs — from spinal stenosis and other ailments. She was in the hospital's hospice unit, which eases the pain of terminally ill patients, but her condition stabilized and that meant she was about to be forced out of hospice and into a nursing home.
(Over the years, I've heard only good things about hospice. Nursing homes, on the other hand, often get mixed reviews, including complaints about how well they handle pain and discomfort, and it's understandable why her husband was distressed.)
In any case, Woody Osman, 86, took a .38 to the hospital, it was reported, and ended his beloved wife's suffering on Tuesday.
By all accounts, they were a splendid couple, and if they had lived in Oregon or Washington, they would have been allowed a dignified departure, at least in Mildred's case. But physician-assisted suicide is not allowed in Pennsylvania, where state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has introduced "death with dignity" legislation in past years and has a new bill almost ready for introduction this year. Standing in the way of such a measure is the power structure's tyrannical triumvirate.
Government control freaks cannot stand the idea of allowing actual freedom. It would threaten their Orwellian grip on behavior control if they let individuals decide what's in their own best interest.
In the religious segment of the power structure, some clerics, ostensibly preaching that all life is sacred, also say temporal matters do not matter, that heavenly bliss can be reached only by adhering to this or that rigid dogma. They demand that everyone, even those of other beliefs, be forced to comply with that dogma.
Both of those oppressions could be overcome, perhaps, if the entire medical establishment supported decency and simple kindness instead of an insistence that suffering be prolonged as much as possible.
I do not believe, for one minute, that that's based on principle. When the profits of abortion came into play, principle was ignored. (The same part of the Hippocratic oath that says doctors must do no harm, and thus must not help end a life, also says doctors must not perform abortions.)
The idea of physician-assisted suicide has different pecuniary implications.
As I argued in 2009, regarding an earlier "death with dignity" bill, the tab for a terminally ill patient can run up to $400 a day. If a single establishment with 100 patients can keep them in agony for a year, it represents $14.6 million. But if a doomed patient can be helped to die gracefully, there is not another dime to be had.
Those points produced furious condemnations from some in the medical profession, but I offered a simple way to prove they are motivated by principle and not greed: From now on, simply forgo any remuneration whatsoever involving terminally ill patients who do not wish to be forced into prolonged torment.
The same medics who had condemned my views about greed suddenly fell silent.
Meanwhile, I decried the imprisonment of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who helped terminally ill people die with dignity. I said "the official thugs who put him there … are as sadistic and barbaric as Torquemada."
I do not know if the option of physician-assisted suicide would have been relevant in the case of Mildred Osman, and I'm sure it would not have applied to Woody Osman's decision to join his wife.
In a decent and civilized society, however, that option should at least be available.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.