On Euthanasia

Perhaps one of the strongest performances of Season 3’s 12 Monkeys, goes to Kirk Acevedo for portraying Ramse’s final moments with his son, Sam.

Ramse has, at this point, spent a totality of decades of his life relentlessly searching for his lost son. Every time he finds his son, circumstances would conspire so that he would lose him again.

The Set Up

In Season 2’s ‘Meltdown’, when the Witness (Future Olivia) hitch-hiked on Cassie’s splinter journey back from the Emerson Hotel into Project Splinter, she had caused the machine to go into meltdown, and created the feedback loop which would snatch Sam into the arms of her younger self. Yup, that happened quite deliberately. It couldn’t have been random.

Ramse would only find his son again after the Cassie-trapping show down at Titan. And this time Sam would have spent decades in the care of the younger Olivia who still believed that she was heading a coup to unseat the Witness.

In Season 3’s ‘Enemy’, days before Ramse would make it to the camp to reunite with his son, Mallick heads a team to decimate the camp and mortally wound Sam. He also leaves a note for Olivia to find – the exact coordinates for Titan, precisely at the moment before it would splinter to intercept Athan from his return.

The Tragedy

Ramse was just 19 years old in the ‘when’ where young Sam was snatched back into. 19 year old Ramse hasn’t had a son yet, and doesn’t know anything about time travel. Sam couldn’t go to him. Not to mention that it felt right to Sam to pursue the Witness.

Sam believed his best choice was to stay with Olivia. If he had sought out Ramse before the moment of the Core Meltdown, there would have been the issue of doubles.

On hindsight, Sam could have reunited with a version of Ramse that already had a son and already knew about time travel. Sam could have prevented his younger self from being snatched into the time stream and immolated the older version of his self.

Sam stopping his younger self from going back in time, would have actually been a preferable sequence of events, had Sam understood that he was on the wrong side of history. As it is, Sam has been manipulated to believe the correct choice was to preserve that sequence of events and to wait for his time to see his father again.

By making that choice, Sam unwittingly allowed himself and his father to become cheap disposable pawns in younger Olivia’s plan to confirm a suspicion she had about the Word of the Witness, which stood in contrast to the version of the story which the Witness at the top of the time stream had told her.

The Reunion

Ramse bursts into the field hospital tent to see a row of heavily bandaged wounded men. It takes him no time at all to recognise his own son, even though it is the first time he has ever seen him as a grown man. Sadly, both of them are too late.

With laboured and painful breaths, Sam tells Ramse that he has spent decades living a parallel existence with him, pursuing what he believed to be a righteous agenda of hunting the Witness alongside Olivia. Sam ‘passed the torch’ of that mission to Ramse.

Olivia of course knew that Ramse could not refuse his own son’s dying wish. She can get Ramse to do anything, if he believes that what she asks of him is in line with what Sam wanted.

Finally, Sam asks his father to personally end his pain. And Ramse, who has spent his time travelling life with the singular mission of preserving Sam’s existence, has to make the choice between allowing his son to die a slow, painful death, or to give him the peace and dignity for which he begged. He chooses, out of love, to end his suffering.

Reflections

I really loved how this episode introduced the theme of euthanasia without dwelling on it. I understand that this is a topic that is still very much a taboo in the United States, especially among religious households. Many people know how much I disliked Ramse’s character, but in that moment he absolutely redeemed himself to me.

The way that the episode showed, without preaching, the humanity and dignity of the difficult decision to end the suffering of a loved one, is something that I found very touching and important.

In Europe, this conversation has moved on a little further, where euthanasia is legal in countries such as Belgium and Switzerland. My own husband is Belgian. Should I be destined to outlive him, he has already tasked me to make this decision on his behalf, should his health decline to such an irretrievable point where his life is nothing but pain and the his will to live has long departed.

We watched his grandfather die a long and painful death from cancer, withering away into a skeletal 45kg from his former 85kg self. Over the course of more than a year, his mind became delirious from pain and morphine, and he was bed-bound and unable to use the toilet for many months, often soiling himself in the hospital bed. His ultra-religious daughter did not consent to letting him go, choosing instead to allow nature to rob him of faculty by faculty, and organ by organ. To me it seemed he was put through the most inhumane torture for far too long before his merciful final breath finally arrived.

One of my best friends had to watch her joyful, cheeky father, succumb to cancer and the delirium of its treatment. I will choose to remember John as the man who almost wore a Darth Vader helmut whilst walking her down the wedding isle. In her country, euthanasia is not legal. She had to watch as multiple organs failed, and the hospital was required to do everything to artificially prop up his wretched, painful, whisper of an existence. He begged and begged her to be let go, over and over again, but she couldn’t do anything. Until one day, the nurse took pity and left a large vial of morphine on the counter and loudly told my friend’s sister ‘I’m going on a break now. You girls don’t mind being on your own for an hour, right?’

The dignity of our loved ones in their final moments is something that we should have honest conversations about, and I for one am proud of 12 Monkeys for bringing this theme up. I understand that it was Kirk Acevedo who introduced this scene into the script during filming – for that, I thank you Sir.

 

 

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