Bioethics Blogs

Drinking at Schiphol with the fount of bioethics

A couple of weeks ago, in an airport bar, I met the foundation of modern bioethics.

I was crawling back to London: he was heading to JFK.

‘I usually fly First’, was his opening, as we sat on those vertiginous stools. ‘So I’m usually in the Lounge. But it’s good to be reminded how the other half live.’ I was glad, for about a minute, to be part of his democratic education.

He’d had quite a start on me, and was several G & Ts down when I arrived. That might have loosened his tongue. Or perhaps, and probably, he was as keen when sober to talk obsessively, self-referentially and self-reverentially about himself. 

He was in derivatives, and had a view of Central Park from his apartment. ‘I live alone, but not alone, if you see what I mean.’ I did, but he spelt it out anyway. ‘I usually get through three or four a week.’ He saw my eyebrows rise. ‘Well’, he said: ‘I get what I want: they get what they want. Everyone wins.’

He’d always been a winner: in the markets, in bed, in life. At least since he’d left home, which had given him nothing. ‘I’m the boy from nowhere, you see. My parents are irrelevant. Always have been. Haven’t spoken to them for years. What I am is what I’ve made myself: what I’ve got is what I’ve taken with my own hands.’ He took my hands in his and squeezed them (rather weakly) to show me his elemental power.

The UK Parliament was about to discuss assisted suicide.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.