The Case for Killing Grandma


Killing is Wrong.

Unless of course some wacko breaks into your house in the middle of the day, wearing nothing but a ten-gallon hat and a pair of flip-flops.  Then you pop a cap in that nutjob, before he gets to your Labrador and starts doing unspeakably inappropriate things.

Or unless someone assaults you in the mall parking lot, and you “accidentally” hit them in the temple with a jagged brick.  Cause that’s self defense.

And you know, I mean, who wouldn’t kill Hitler, if given the chance?

The point is, it is universally recognized that sometimes taking the life of another human can be justified.  Sometimes it may even be lauded.  So, in a system where the taking of a human life is only criminal in a case by case basis, I want to know why I can’t kill my Grandma.

My grandmother is ninety-seven years old.  Her mind is sharp – sharp enough to know it’s not as sharp as it used to be.  Her only passions are painting and reading, which of course she can’t do because of arthritis and near-blindness.

Her husband is dead.  Her sisters are dead.  Her friends are dead.  Everyone she cares about is dead.  (I know, you’re all “But K. Jean King, she still has you!”  Yeah.  She doesn’t care.  …Love you too, Grandma.)

So all she is left with is eighteen waking hours a day to sit around on her memory-foam donut-cushion and “pray for the good lord to take her.”  Every moment of her life is torture because she is literally being tortured by life.

My question is, if she wants to die, and all of those who love her agree she would be happier dead, why can’t we kill her?

Let’s call it a living will.  Usually a person draws up a living will so that their family has explicit, legally-binding instructions, should that person become a bed-laden cucumber being kept alive only by mechanical assistance.  The idea is that no one should have to be kept alive against their will.  I suggest this qualifies, with the minor difference being that, instead of being kept alive artificially by machines, she’s being kept alive by some cruel, cosmic joke.

Or maybe we could call it a kind of preemptive last will and testament.  A person draws up a will in order to ensure that their affairs are properly handled by their loved ones after they die – that everything is distributed and handled the way they want.  What about an addendum saying, “I would like Brenda to get my antique bedroom set, and also dose me in case I haven’t achieved natural death by age eighty-eight.”

Then, of course, there is always suicide by proxy:

“Oh, I heard that Agnus committed suicide.  That’s terrible.  What did she use to do it?”

“The sympathies of her family.”

People frequently say that killing is the worst crime.  I am always inclined to disagree.  I’ve never heard of a “justifiable rape.”  Nor have I ever heard the claim, “He staged that cockfight in self-defense.”

I don’t know when the Old Lady is finally going to kick the proverbial bucket.  All I do know is that every time I visit her, surrounded by the paintings she can no longer paint, and the books she can no longer read, and the pictures of those who she wishes to meet in heaven, it feels like cruel and unusual punishment.

And that is in violation of the 8th amendment of the Constitution.  Just sayin’.

17 thoughts on “The Case for Killing Grandma

  1. You could always assert Justice Brennan’s first principle, if you were to go further with the 8th amendment argument:

    * The “essential predicate” is “that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity,” especially torture.

    * “A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion.”

    * “A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society.”

    * “A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary.”

  2. I’ll pray (assuming it’s benign) when someone asks, but I don’t really like praying for octogenarians and such. You see it now w/ Nelson Mandela. Maybe someday it would make sense if our life expectancies reach 120, but not now.

  3. Poor Grams. My hope is that should I find myself in that position, one of my kind decedents will leave me with a decadent pasta meal, a bottle of really fabulous red wine, and enough pills to put me away. That way I can finally eat pasta without guilt, raise a glass to all of those I loved and all of my favorite memories, and then call it a life while the going is still kind of good.

    You hear that universe! Make it happen.

  4. Yup, it’s entirely possible to live to long. It’s my understanding that some other countries are not quite as anal about it as we are here.. Something about a special cocktail for the victim when the time is right…seems to me, when living becomes too much or a burden the time is right…just sayin, Another thing that has always puzzled me is how suicide can be a crime. What do they do, try the corpse and send them to jail?

  5. Dear Billy Gene, (Sorry, I’m giving away my age.)

    Thanks for reminding me. Instead of my grandmother, it was my mother, she lasted till 94. A question that most of us struggle with.

  6. I am all for euthanasia if someone wants to end their life. It is not my or anyone else’s place to tell someone they have to live if they don’t want to. I mean, we euthanize our pets so they don’t suffer, why can’t we do the same for ourselves? What makes our pets lives so much more worthy of that compassion than a person’s?

  7. i like this, but i still don’t want to kill grandma. i want grandma to find something worthwhile to do that she can still manage. how about you buy her a tape recorder & write her a set of interview questions & she can begin to record her memoirs? or, if she doesn’t like that idea, tell her to dictate her own opinions on all these matters. arthritis doesn’t mean you can’t dictate to another person to transcribe for you. and aren’t there computer programs that even recognize spoken words now & translate them into typewritten words? for me, suicide when there is not intractable pain (untreatable even with morphine & the like) is not a good thing. we are here for a reason; i’m not all religious hoo-hoo, but i do at least believe life is what we make of it, and at every stage but a limited, limited few, we can find ways to pass our wisdom, or our rantings, along to other people who want to listen. i like your writing very much, just disagree with your premise in this particular piece. i could, of course, be totally wrong. i am just not smart enough to know the answers, but i am smart enough to raise the questions!

  8. The post is kind of a microcosm of my entire blog. My grandma’s genealogy research was keeping her busy, but since her semi-unsuccessful cataract surgery she can’t see her computer, the tv … Anything. Her brain is literally turning to mush before my eyes. But even if the mind goes, all the crap her dr. gives her may keep her body going — even against her will. I hope she goes soon. More importantly I hope I never get there.

  9. In our society, “we” have not problem “playing God” by keeping people alive by extraordinary means. So why don’t we have a little humanity and allow people to die without invoking that “push-button” term “playing God?” So inconsistent…

  10. Suicide is a hard one. I have spent many hours contemplating the ethics of suicide. I use to work in psych facilities so I spent a lot of time on suicide watches. I never could really decide if suicide should ALWAYS be up to the individual.

    In the case of grandma or other elderly people that are ready to end their life on their own terms I can agree with it. I also think suicide is legitimate when an individual has a terminal illness and wishes to speed up the process. In those cases I believe the individual can make a rational and well informed decision about suicide. They understand the prospects for the rest of their life and the consequences of suicide.

    On the other hand I don’t know if anybody should be allowed to kill themselves for any reason. When suicide is driven by depression or addiction then I don’t believe it is rational. I think in those case the individuals are too emotional to fully understand and consent to suicide. Mental illness can be treated successfully and the individual can become happy once more even if they can’t see that at the moment. If they are prevented from committing suicide they may well thank you for it later. But it is their life and their choice, I do believe that people should be free to make their own choices. That leaves me in a quandary. Self-determination vs irrational permanent choice.

    I do know that if a family member wanted to die due to age or terminal illness I would support them. Yet if a family member was suicidal due to mental illness I would try to prevent them and get them help.

  11. Reblogged this on TheDailyWyatt and commented:
    Funny thing, I am constantly underwhelmed by the quality of the writing i see in print; books, magazines, newspapers, etc. But I am frequently blown away by the writing I see online. Such as this post. There is some real thinking going on here (and in Ms. King’s other writing as well) which is almost disguised by the easy, intimate, casual tone of her writing; and also by her humor. And if you think that happens without a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, just give it a shot yourself sometime. It is the Holy Grail of writing (at least in my book). I also love the fact that her mind works so differently from mine, that almost every sentence is a delightful surprise.

    Read this:

  12. Very interesting post. I always enjoy reading post that are both thought provoking and humorous. Overall I am really impressed with the format of this blog. If you don’t mind, could you check out my blog? Over at, we try to mix humor with a variety of other categories. I hope this doesn’t sound like spam (it is so hard to ask for feedback without it sounding like spam!), but I would really appreciate your opinion on the blog. I hope I haven’t wasted too much of your time, but I really enjoyed this post and just wanted to let you know!

    (Posted by Jim)

    • Jim: I like your blog. More than once it has made me laugh out loud – literally LOL. I like the way that ideas are crafted and I like the snarky way you guys put the pen to the paper (which of course is a metaphor, seeing as how you are typing). I also like the variety of topics you write about, which I think gives it a lot of flavor.

      My only two constructive criticisms are (1) grammar, dude… you know, just check the spelling an punctuation of things. It’s the bane of any writer’s existence. (2) Sometimes I was thrown off when you referenced the interpersonal banter between writers, but that could just be me and because I’m newish to the blog. You also generally include links any time something like this comes up, so…you know, feel free to ignore me.

      I think it’s a great site! I look forward to reading future posts, and laughing out loud, alone in my room.

  13. MOL, yup it is pretty good, but, I have a question for him. He says he still follows baseball, after the Blacksox scandal? Meow about cheating….oh yeah, one more, he requests comments but there is no comment area….at least I couldn’t find one

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