Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Not a Brave Choice

Also posted at Catholic Insight, catholicinsight.com

Recipe for Elder abuse

Photo courtesy of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I watched the Youtube videos and read the articles of Susan Griffiths’ final week of life with a mixture of sadness, discouragement and anger.  Susan Griffiths was the Canadian woman from Winnipeg, Manitoba who committed assisted suicide at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland on April 25, 2013.

She was in the early stages of Multiple Systems Atrophy, a rare condition of the involuntary nervous system.  As the name implies, it attacks all organ systems thereby affecting everything from muscular control, sweating, heart and lungs, bowel and bladder control, digestion, vision and mental function.  The decline is gradual and patients live seven to nine years after diagnosis, losing all the body functions we take for granted and living a totally dependent life of pain and discomfort.  Treatment and medications address the symptoms.  There is no cure and no hope of remission.  It is, in fact, a horrible way to die.

What is even more horrible is the widespread support of on-line commenters and of society in general.  It saddens me that we live in a time and place where the mantra is “my body, my choice”.  It’s not just pro-abortion proponents chanting this.  Now euthanasia/assisted suicide advocates have picked up the cry.  Ms. Griffiths expressed what all right-to-die proponents believe: “I want to die on my own terms.”  In her last video before drinking a lethal cocktail, she urged Canadians to push for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

In many people’s eyes, committing assisted suicide is a brave choice.  What I see as brave is the elderly woman with a chronic debilitating disease who cries out in pain at something so simple as having her leg lifted but she tells the nurse to lift it anyway.  She fights for a dignified life each day.  What’s brave is the person whose body, ravaged by cancer, is unrecognizable even to family members.  In her lucid moments she continues to offer up to God her pain and suffering.  Brave is the family of the terminally ill child who lovingly minister to his needs until his final breath.  Brave is the family of a disabled child who sacrifice finances, time and career in order to provide the best quality-of-life for their child.

We live in a society where convenience, autonomy, and self-centeredness govern behaviour, attitude, laws, philosophies; a world where man is god and the trinity consists of wealth-power-prestige.  There’s no room for mercy and even less room for suffering.  Suffering, pain and losing bodily functions is not convenient for the sick or for their families and so out of a misguided sense of values, many people believe that legal suicide is the merciful option.  Society has lost or perhaps never understood or believed in the redemptive value of suffering.  Nor does society value the total self-giving required in caring for our vulnerable brothers and sisters.

Committing medically sanctioned suicide is not a private choice, no matter what anyone says.  The ramifications have a ripple effect and they are frightening.  Don’t be fooled by claims that only people who want to die are given assistance.  According to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, in Belgium, where assisted suicide is legal, a study of 3623 assisted suicide deaths revealed that 32% of the assisted deaths were carried out without explicit request.  Lawyer Isaac Jackson wrote that the assisted suicide law in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, is not transparent and therefore not safe.  For further data and more examples, read this Euthanasia Prevention  Coalition article. 

I’m angry, but not at Susan Griffiths.  People who opt for assisted suicide and euthanasia don’t see any other viable option.  If they were assured proper, compassionate, comprehensive palliative care and a societal attitude of charity and respect for life,  it follows that they and their families would feel less frightened and more hopeful.  I’m angry at a medical system that let her down and at advocates who continue to say that we should all have the right to kill ourselves with assistance.

Lest anyone think they can wash their hands of any involvement, think again.  Assisted suicide opponents, what have you done lately to speak out and try to stop the progress of suicide-on-demand?  Here are some suggestions:

  • pray
  • write letters and send petitions to your provincial/ state and federal medical associations.  In Canada we have provincial Medical Associations and the Canadian Medical Association.  The American counterpart is the American Medical Association and state Health Authorities.
  • write letters to your nation’s professional nursing associations.  Canadians have the Canadian Nurses Association as well as provincial Associations.  Americans can write to the American Nurses Association as well as individual state Nursing Associations.
  • write letters to the editor
  • speak up in charity and truth even if you think no one’s listening
  • lobby government for better delivery of medical services for palliative care patients and people with disabilities
  • develop a compassionate heart for those afflicted with pain and suffering.  Put yourself in their situation.

When I read an article about someone who has committed assisted suicide, I become discouraged, but only for a little while.  These incidents, which are too numerous, should only strengthen our resolve to keep fighting for better care for the terminally ill and those suffering from debilitating conditions.  We really are our brothers’ keeper and what affects them will eventually affect us.

The acceptance of this heinous practice is growing.  For that reason alone, we need to be a stronger, more convicted voice of reason, compassion and life.

Deo Gratias

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35 Responses to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Not a Brave Choice

  1. SR says:

    Brave post 8 Kids. I agree with you on everything you said. My Mom is so ill, and the thought never crosses our minds to have her die! In fact we try as hard as we can to help her live, whatever the value of her life is. Her mind is gone, yet her life still has value. Until the Lord calls her home, we will continue to do the best we can, as she does bring “laughter” and “love” to us. Does it get hard at times, you bet! Do we have to drop “our lives” at times and take care of her? You bet! Do “our plans” change on a moments notice? You bet! Do I have to miss that “movie,” “shopping trip,” even “Mass” at times? You bet! Sometimes my floors do not see a mop for a week or better. “Death” though, is not our option, it is God’s. Life does not always offer to us, “the easy way out.” Though she suffers and so do we, love and help for the sick can make all the difference in the world. Great post and God Bless, SR

    • Thanks for your comment, SR. Your mom, and others like her, have so much to teach us about compassion, patience, generousity and the value of life. Even in her infirmity, she continues to give of herself. Tragically so many people in the world don’t value her contribution.

      • lpatangan says:

        I have watched my step father suffer for 3 years now and in some ways what’s harder is watching my mom suffering too. It has affected all of us. I don’t think people realize how slow death can be. Still, I am grateful that he is with us. That we have this time. My mother has set an example of being a devoted wife and caretaker who serves out of love. What a gift that is for all of us to see.

        I remember when my dog needed to be put to sleep, it was my step father who tried every alternative to sustain his life. He was a physician by profession and the value of life to him — even a dogs is paramount. It’s hard to understand when others feel differently about something so significant.

        He suffers but with grace and dignity — and a loving God by his side.

  2. Lyn says:

    I’ve been pondering at New Things about suffering…what it is, what it’s not….why we suffer, and what does it look like to suffer well. This post is a dynamic addition to the thoughts and implications clanking around in my head. May I link to it in my next post?

    Blessings,
    Lyn

    PS, I followed SR here, and feel I’ve found another kindred spirit of sorts. I do enjoy your lovely blog.

  3. Beautifully written and so well thought out. You certainly convinced me! But are we going to be able to convince those who need convincing.

    I believe in choice, but not in the way the Choice folks believe in it. I don’t believe we get to choose when we die, or whether our children live, or whether to execute felons or drop bombs on our enemies. No choice — only God’s revealed truth of universal compassion, mercy and respect.

    I do, however, believe it’s up to us how to center our lives. We can do as the world instructs and pursue happiness by attempting to conform our lives to our own ill-informed idea of ‘what’s best’. This means we spend a lifetime struggling against each other in an effort to ‘have our own way’. That’s one choice — and it affords us the illusion of ‘being in charge’ and “choosing” for ourselves what we will do and what will happen to us. In my opinion no one should ever worry about going to hell. If you live your life this way you’re in hell already!

    The other choice is to echo the Blessed Mother’s fiat. Believe the church when she teaches us that true joy is knowledge of God and self-sacrificing service to one another. That’s what it means to make the cross the center of your life!

    Blessings,

    Paul

  4. abcinsc says:

    Reblogged this on The Peanut Gallery and commented:
    “In many people’s eyes, committing assisted suicide is a brave choice. What I see as brave is the elderly woman with a chronic debilitating disease who cries out in pain at something so simple as having her leg lifted but she tells the nurse to lift it anyway. She fights for a dignified life each day…. Brave is the family of the terminally ill child who lovingly minister to his needs until his final breath.”

  5. Teresa Rice says:

    Excellent post @8kids. Euthanasia/assisted suicide is not an act of bravery. It is the easy way out. The ill have no right to take their own life. Only God the author of all life has the authority to decide when a person is going to die. God Bless.

  6. Teresa Rice says:

    Reblogged this on Catholibertarian and commented:
    Only God the author of all life has the right to decide when a person is going to die. Euthanasia/assisted suicide is a selfish act of taking the easy way out. It is not an act of bravery. No one should be cheerleaders for death. This is the work of the devil. People who think taking your own life is a good thing are sick. There is so much moral bankruptcy in our society that it is disheartening. We need to pray, rely on God and be more proactive in showing persons with major illnesses that they are loved by Christ and how fulfilling it is to unite your suffering with Jesus’ Cross.

  7. mithriluna says:

    Well written and informative post. It seems to me that people have given up hope, real hope, the hope that can only be rooted on the mercy and goodness of God. Thank you for sharing.

  8. oarubio says:

    You also bring up the importance of redemptive suffering. We claim to be wanting to contribute to the betterment of our fellow human human beings– but we want to do it without paying certain knid of prices. How many opportunities for offering up suffering have we thrown away by taking the easier way out?

  9. Great informative blog. Will repost. Think of how many souls she could have helped with offering her suffering! Sad.

  10. Reblogged this on Healthy Bodies and Souls and commented:
    Thought this was a good, informative and heartfelt post to share.

  11. reinkat says:

    Really great post. Thanks especially for including some suggestions of things to do to combat this evil. That is empowering. I feel so overwhelmed by the power and numbers of people who support assisted suicide–and the fact that I am not the suffering one that is in pain. It is made difficult by the pervasive atheism that surrounds us, when the first question is actually: Is there really a God, and the impossibility of providing physical proof of that to an adamant nonbeliever. It is hard to get past that question, it always comes back to that in my experience.

    • Yes, I agree that it all comes down to a belief in a loving Father and trusting in His will. You’re welcome about the suggestions. I agree that people become overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and don’t know where to start to address it.

  12. lilyboat says:

    This is very sad.. We are truly witnessing the end times. May God bless and give strength to those who fight for his law!

  13. Wonderful post. We truly need to stand up together for life in all stages to be preserved.

  14. dgcree says:

    Well written post, I totally agree and I have linked to this on Facebook.

  15. People who are being pressured to agree to euthanasia/assisted suicide, whether they are patients, family members, medical personnel or anyone else, can also get in touch with Not Dead Yet (http://www.notdeadyet.org/), a pro-life disability-rights group.
    Good post.

  16. Pingback: On Suffering – 3 | New Things

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