Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby" Euthanasia Plot Offends Disabled

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 3, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby" Euthanasia Plot Offends Disabled Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 3, 2005

Los Angeles, CA ( — In a year featuring an unprecedented number of films promoting abortion and assisted suicide, Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby" is the latest to have viewers up in arms.

The boxing drama is up for an Academy Award, but disabled activists and pro-life advocates are upset because the movie promotes a very negative view of those with serious disabilities and promotes euthanasia.

The movie features Eastwood, a boxing trainer who serves as a mentor for fighter Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hilary Swank). The two develop a father-daughter relationship as Swank’s character rises to the top of the boxing world.

When an opponent leaves Fitzgerald paralyzed from the neck down after a devastating blow, she decides she would rather die than continue her life. She asks Eastwood’s character, Frankie Dunn, to help her.

After some excruciating soul searching, he does.

Marcie Roth, director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, says she doesn’t like the film’s conclusion because so many still wrongly believe that "having a spinal-cord injury is a fate worse than death."

"Unfortunately, a message like the one in `Million Dollar Baby’ just perpetuates exactly what we work so hard to dispel," she told the Associated Press.

"The movie is saying ‘death is better than disability," Roth adds.

Debbie Schlussel pans the film and says it will continue earning awards becasue "it’s Hollywood’s best political propaganda of the year … it supports killing the handicapped, literally putting their lights out.”

Eastwood, who directs and stars in the movie, says the characters’ choices aren’t meant to promoted assisted suicide. Instead, the movie is intended to stick closely to the book it by author F.X. Toole on which it’s based.

"How the character handles it is certainly different than how I might handle it if I were in that position in real life,” Eastwood told the Associated Press. "Every story is a ‘what if.”’

The criticism leads some to say that the movie will be a shoo-in for Oscar voters.

"All the conservative outcry is going to steel Oscar voters in favor of this movie," says Entertainment Weekly’s Dave Karger. "It already has the most emotional power of any of the [best picture] nominees, and this is going to intensify that sentiment."

Us Weekly film critic Thelma Adams tells USA Today that Oscar voters probably strongly favor "Million Dollar Baby’s" pro-euthansaia stance.

"They were probably thinking, ‘Hurry up with the needle,’" she says. "They were wondering what took so long."

That hasn’t stopped disabled advocates from the Chicago-based Not Dead Yet from protesting at movie theaters.

Eastwood earned honors for best director for the film at the Golden Globes, Swank received the best actress award and the two, along with co-star Morgan Freeman, are up for Oscar Awards later this month.