There’s been bitter backlash over TikTok videos posted by model Ali Tate Cutler about her grandmother’s decision to be euthanised – but why shouldn’t she talk publicly about it?
TikTok is a hell of a place: one moment you’re watching a baby capybara eating a banana, the next you’re seeing an influencer post about her grandmother’s decision to be euthanised.
Ali Tate Cutler, a Texas-based model, revealed her grandmother had chosen to die by euthanasia on TikTok earlier this week. She explains that her grandma (who she affectionately refers to as her ‘Bubbie’) lives in Canada, where medical assistance in dying (MAiD) for people over the age of 18 has been legal since 2016. According to Cutler, her grandma chose to be euthanised after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Cutler’s videos on her grandma have since gone viral, with one clip of the pair getting ready to go out for dinner one last time amassing nearly 13 million views. Naturally, there’s been some backlash to the clips. “Why would you publicise this? So wrong,” one TikTok comment reads, while a Twitter user responded to the videos by saying “I might throw my phone out the window.”
In recent years, there’s been a big pushback against posting all of our lives online, and broadcasting your grandma’s death is probably the worst thing you could possibly do in the eyes of people who think oversharing on social media is the root of all that is wrong with 21st-century life. Plus I think it’s fair to say that for most people, a family death is something that would be kept private, so it’s unsurprising that seeing someone speak about it so publicly and frankly has inspired intense feelings of confusion, disgust, and anger.
But I struggle to see the issue with posting videos about death, really, if everyone involved consents to it, as Cutler’s grandma seems to have done. This isn’t in the same vein as that incredibly cursed musica.ly video from a few years back where a teenager lip-synced to “Let Me Love You” while his grandad lay unresponsive in a hospital bed – these are videos which are genuinely shining a light on subjects which remain taboo. “What are your thoughts as you move closer to the date?” Cutler asks her grandma in one video. “It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “What is the actual day like?” Cutler asks. “There’s an initial injection putting you to sleep,” the grandma explains. “Then once you’re in a deep sleep there are two other injections you get – but at that point you don’t know, it’s painless.”
@alitatecutler I have so many emotions right now but all im focused on is making this the most memorable week for her #euthanasia #ondying #lastsupper #finalfarewell #grandma ♬ multiverse - Maya Manuela
It’s refreshing to see euthanasia spoken about in such a plain, matter-of-fact way – especially in light of the sort of squeamishness towards death which pervades western culture and precludes such important, necessary conversations about dying. As writer Ashley Reese posted on Twitter: “It’s actually good for more people to be more aware of end of life care and maybe you need to reflect on why you think this is something shameful and should be hidden. Do you but there’s nothing wrong about this woman sharing her grandma’s end of life journey.”
Evidently, it would be pretty jarring for anyone to use a family member’s death for clout, but these videos really don’t seem like Cutler ghoulishly capitalising on her grandma’s decision to be euthanised. Instead, they seem like informative, frank clips that are seeking to demystify death and make the euthanasia process seem less alien, which is a vital conversation to have given that it’s still illegal in so many places across the world (Canada’s current system is far, far from perfect, but Cutler is simply highlighting an instance where assisted dying can be the best option). Plus it’s pointless to shy away from death and pretend it’s not coming: as Cutler points out in the captions to one of her videos, the “only thing that is certain is death and taxes”.