We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future
Euthanasia is at present a controversial social issue. However, in many futuristic societies, it is a norm, and may in fact be encouraged. This is generally, but not always, the sign of a Dystopia
, and at the very least demonstrates the divergence between the fictional world and the actual one. A handy rule of thumb is that the consensual nature of the euthanasia presented is inversely proportional to how dystopian the society presented is supposed to be.
Note that, in some countries and US states, consensual euthanasia is legal under certain guidelines.
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Anime & Manga
- The first volume of The Ballad Of Halo Jones notes that the upper levels of the Hoop contain pleasant gardens that prospective euthanasiacs can visit before dying. The protagonists use them as a shortcut, and plan to say the garden's beauty made them want to live again if they get caught.
- A recurring plot point in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye involves Relinquishment Clinics, places active before the Great War where Transformers could go to donate their bodies for cash, being used as living organ donors or even swap bodies with people who wanted a different body. After the war starts, they lost the donation part and simply became a place where bots who wanted to die could go to be quietly killed. It's later revealed that Chromedome met Rewind at one such clinic; he was suffering from severe depression at the time and intended to commit suicide there, but meeting Rewind convinced him there was something worth living for.
- Used in Soylent Green, as one solution to overpopulation and of course as an ingredient in food. In this case, people aren't forced to do it, but life is so bad there that the distinction isn't that important.
- Detective Thorne in the ending, however, seems to think they will eventually start raising humans like cattle for pure food. The relatively serious apathy of the people around him implies that they already are.
- Appears in Logan's Run in the form of "Carrousel," the ritual that everyone who hits the age of thirty has to go through in hopes of "Renewal," and which no one has ever survived.
- Also appears in Children of Men (where humanity has lost the ability to reproduce, causing widespread despair as people know they are going to die out) in the form of a highly successful pharmaceutical campaign selling what are essentially suicide pills. Parallels to antidepressants are not entirely subtle. Then again, it does lead to a tearjerker moment as Michael Caine euthanizes his vegetative wife when he knows that he will be performing a Heroic Sacrifice to cover the escape of the protagonists. One dark touch is that an advertisement mentions they're offered free to illegal immigrants, who are horribly persecuted in the film.
- Freejack. An advertisement for Dial A Suicide can be seen at one stage.
- In Children of the Corn (1984), any of the Children who turns 19 is obliged to walk out into the cornfield and be taken by He Who Walks Behind The Rows. A partial subversion, as they don't realize they're going to die (or worse, in Isaac's case).
- One of the many signs of decadence of the great city in Barbarella is a nightclub-like place offering "unique and interesting ways to die." Which implies some overlap with another trope altogether.
- Older than Television: It is one of the themes of "The Repairer of Reputations", a short story by Robert Chambers which introduced The King in Yellow. The story, written in 1895, depicts society twenty five years on, where "Government Lethal Chambers" have become widespread, so that people can self-euthanize without hassle.
- In The Giver, everybody except the Receiver of Memories has the right to commit suicide whenever they want and euthanasia (which is called being "Released to Elsewhere") is practiced on the elderly, the smaller of twins, and babies that don't develop correctly, as well as on people who cause too much trouble (airplane pilots who make too many mistakes, for instance). Consent is an issue in the latter case, though, since they don't know it's euthanasia rather than exile. Due to the way this society works, even the people who perform "Release" don't fully understand what they are doing. Only the Giver and the Receiver, the only people who possess all of the knowledge the society has given up, understand that "Release" means death. One chilling scene is when the main character realizes his father kills the "defective" infants.
- The Culture is basically a Utopia and has technology which can keep you alive and young forever, but there is kind of a thought that you should go peacefully at some point. This might entail dying of old age, but it can also be in the form of Nothing Left to Do but Die.
- Appears in Time Enough for Love-"Death is Every Man's Privilege."
- Happens in Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Welcome to the Monkey House", where it's encouraged by the government in order to bring down the human population to manageable levels (and those who administer the drug are voluptuous babes who dress in transparent clothing to appeal to older men.)
- Also in another of Vonnegut's short stories, "2BR02B" (the zero is pronounced "naught".) Aging has been cured. To keep the population of the United States from exceeding forty million people, the law of the land says that before anybody new can be born, somebody must volunteer to die. Anybody who feels like dying arranges to do so by calling the phone number which is the title of the story and making an appointment. The protagonist of the story is distraught because his wife is about to have triplets, but he's only found one person willing to die. He finally decides on the solution of shooting two proponents of population control and then shooting himself.
- Isaac Asimov's Pebble In The Sky has the natives of a backwater, slowly dying future Earth holding to a custom of being put to death when they reach "The Sixty"-their sixtieth birthday. Anyone who is unable to work is also euthanized.
- And in Prelude to Foundation, it is mentioned that there are no problems to legally commit suicide on Trantor.
- The Tripods. In "The City of Gold and Lead" human slaves go to booths were they can be killed painlessly once they've become too worn out to serve their Masters. Given the high gravity of the city, this only takes a few years.
- In the future of the Christ Clone Trilogy, "life completion clinics" become commonplace. In-story, they are noted as having a preternatural tendency to know when someone is going through a difficult, depressing time, and sending them bright and cheery brochures advertising their services (this being explained by the power of the Antichrist, who set them up).
- In Oryx and Crake, people compete to feature on nighty-night.com, in which their suicide is streamed live for entertainment.
- In the short story "The Sooey Pill", everyone is issued a poison tablet so they can commit suicide whenever they feel like it. Someone commits murder by slipping someone else a "sooey" pill, and is punished by not being given a replacement tablet.
- In Dreamsnake, it's likely that Jesse had a fatal aneurysm moments before Mist bit her. The fact remains that a quick death by cobra bite was deemed preferable to what could have been a far slower and more painful one by radiation poisoning.
- The future society in The Color Of Distance and Through Alien Eyes is overall trying to be utopian. An alien healer visiting a hospital is asked to treat someone in such a bad shape neither human nor alien treatments can help, determines that the man has no more desire to live, and euthanizes him before berating the staff for not giving this as an option before. In his species anyone too badly wounded to heal completely kills themselves, though he comes to realize that that isn't as good a thing as he'd grown up assuming.
- In "Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair," a short story by Frederik Pohl, an overpopulated U.S. where both abortion and contraception are outlawed implements a form of population control using euthanasia by chance. "Lottery fairs" are held periodically at which fairgoers "pay" for rides, concessions, raffles (including several for jobs), etc. by inserting their arms into a cuff that offers a small but real chance of delivering a lethal injection.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is a society where everyone commits suicide at the age of 60. Originally to alleviate the strain of paying for keeping the elderly alive, it has become a way of honoring the individual and their family. Lwaxana Troi attempted to dissuade a man of this society from doing it, but he ultimately went off to after he was begged by his daughter (whose mother had already done so).
- Vulcans and Klingons both have practices where a sufficiently crippled or incapacitated individual may opt to die. Worf planned to do it in one episode after being paralyzed, and Picard argued Klingon tradition should be respected in a somewhat anvilicious way to Riker (whom Worf had asked to assist in the ritual, as direct suicide is still "dishonorable" for Klingons). Worf changed his mind in the end, partly because Riker does some investigating and discovers that it should in fact be Worf's son who assists, and Worf cannot bring himself to ask the child to do so. And partly because Picard was able to convince Dr Crusher to also respect Klingon values by authorizing an incredibly risky, experimental surgery to reverse the damage despite her belief that Worf should receive futuristic physical therapy instead (which would still leave him basically crippled).
- Star Trek: The Original Series: In "A Taste of Armageddon" they're used in lieu of nuclear warfare; computers select those who have been 'killed' in each attack, and the victims report voluntarily to the suicide booths, thus sparing their civilization the horrors of mass destruction. Things go well until Kirk and his crew are designated dead.
- In "The Mark of Gideon," an extremely overpopulated world is trying to set up a voluntary suicide system, starting by infecting the leader's daughter with a disease.
- An episode of Sliders had them travel into a world where kids had taken over, and it was illegal to live too long, as low as 50 in some states.
- And one where there was a kind of weird lottery. Someone would draw money from a machine (no limit was stated). Later, several people who drew money would be selected to "Make Way", and be given a huge amount of money, plenty for one last hurrah and to take care of their families. The more money you took, the greater your chance of being selected (not that the person who drew the most would be automatically selected, it seemed to work more along the idea of having more tickets in a raffle). Of course one of the main characters are selected before they are aware of all the details...
- The Zeromancer song "Doctor Online" is about "1-800-Suicide," a service offering the impatient ways to end their lives.
- The concept of a dystopian future is an overlying theme in many albums published by Arjen A. Lucassen, but his album "Lost In The New Real" in particular has a surprisingly upbeat song advertising a certain "Dr. Slumberís Eternity Home".
- In Mindjammer after discovering Rejuve Old Earth instituted the Mortality Statutes mandating euthanasia at the age of 500. Which was repealed after the invention of Planar drive and the Age of Expansion, though many Core Worlds keep it as a voluntary tradition.
- An email in Deus Ex advertises a suicide clinic, offering its users ten thousand credits to his or her survivors should they visit.
- Hell MOO includes a suicide booth in Freedom City where those who are suffering from post-apocalyptic depression or just plain boredom can off themselves. Of course, the cloning centers still function perfectly and automatically shuffle your soul into a new body when you die, so as long as you have a clone available there's no way for anyone in Freedom City to ever die; it's established that many of the denizens of the city were around before the Collapse and have just kept living for centuries.
- And since the bodies are taken naked to the recycling center across the street, all of their possessions are left in the booth prime for the taking.
- Fallout: New Vegas features a Vault which required one of its population to be sacrificed every year in order to keep the remainder alive (for no reason other than that it's builders were huge jerks). The sacrifice sequence mirrors the Soylent Green example above. The Vault's residents elect the person they consider the worst member of their society for the annual sacrifice. Anvilicious. When things inevitably turn violent and messy in the decision process, it turns out it was supposed to be a Secret Test of Character by the designers: no sacrifice was actually required at all to keep the Vault running, the automated message that informed the survivors seemed to indicate they were expected to rebel against the system and refuse to sacrifice anyone from the beginning. Seems the Vault designers were a little too idealistic.
- Parodied in Futurama with suicide booths. In DVD Commentary, the writers and cast of Futurama did note that they played down the suicide booth angle as the series went on, as it had lost its novelty and served its purpose of showing how different the future was.
- A related discussion, next to a large swimming pool-sized vat of stem cells.
Fry: Fetal stem cells? Aren't those controversial?
Farnsworth: In your time, yes. But today... shut up. Besides, these are adult stem cells, from perfectly healthy adults... whom I murdered for their stem cells.