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Hilary Swank as Maggie in Warner Bros. Million Dollar Baby

For most of its two-and-a-quarter hours, MILLION
DOLLAR BABY is a story about love and determ-
ination. Frankie and Maggie need each other
because they both have something to prove,
to themselves and to others. Under Frankie's
tutelage, Maggie rises through the ranks of
women's boxing.

Then tragedy strikes: An illegal blow causes
Maggie to strike her head against the stool.
She's left as a quadriplegic. Frankie works
just as hard at trying to help Maggie adjust
to her new life out of the ring as he did helping
her in the ring. But that's not what she wants.
She wants Frankie to help her end her life --
which he does.

Why? As Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote,
it's not because she's in pain or even

because she's depressed. Rather, it's
because "she can't bear to be a has-been."

In the moral universe of the film, "anyone
who comes to the end of their 15 minutes
of fame is justified in seeking suicide."
The idea that, as with my friend, Joni
Eareckson Tada
, life goes on even after
paralysis -- and is even richer, perhaps --
is alien to this universe.

Given what this says about the quality
and worth of the lives lived by the

disabled, it's not surprising that disability-
rights groups have protested the film.

You might not expect anything different
from Hollywood, but there is one alternative.
The new Fox hospital drama, HOUSE, tells
the story of a diagnostician named Dr.
Gregory House. He's not what you would
call a "people person." As he says,
"humanity is overrated." Add the fact
that he is in constant pain, which causes
him to pop painkillers like candy, and you've
got the man who put the mis in misanthrope.

And while House dislikes people, he hates
death. Thus, he has no patience with people
like Maggie who won't fight as hard to preserve
the gift of life as they did in less important
pursuits. When patients say they want to
discontinue treatment and die, House calls
them "idiots" and disputes their sentimentality

about "dying with dignity." Death is always
messy and always represents a waste -- so
much so that he even disregards the occasional
"do not resuscitate" order. Instead of hastening
death, he insists on "practicing medicine for a


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