6) Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide…
Our administration would be opposed to any type of euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Euthanasia: The intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.
Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance and means to take their own life. When it’s a doctor, it’s called “physician assisted suicide.”
Oregon has enacted the “Death with Dignity Act” which allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.
In the Baptist Press, Don Buckley, a fellow with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Research Institute, responded to this law by saying that doctors “must not be recruited as executioners, lest we see a return to the days of Nazi Germany… We should aggressively work to allay the fears of the terminally ill that they will die in pain and all alone.”
According to my Catholic faith, terminating life in either of these fashions (euthanasia or assisted suicide) is a grave wrong. In essence, man begins to play God in these cases.
What’s more, a person’s end of life suffering may well be necessary to help them discover, or draw closer to, God. And for the relatives, friends and other caregivers, this time of extending themselves to help the dying person might be necessary for their own spiritual growth as well.
I attended a seminar on “Death and Dying” in Lancaster, Ohio. Franciscan Sr. Patricia McMahon, who specializes in this topic, said under no circumstance should euthanasia be an option. She pointed to an Ohio Catholic Conference of Bishops writing about “Pastoral Reflections on Death.”
Part of this document reads: “Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide will diminish rather than enhance the dignity of the person. We believe there are better ways to extend care and compassion to those facing death, ways that offer solace to those in pain and foster personal support and presence in the midst of suffering. Our reflections therefore are directed toward not only what we are called to oppose, but to what we are committed to promote: care and compassion in the face of pain and suffering.”
Susan Kraft is all about promoting that.
At Stephens Point, Wisconsin, we interviewed Ms. Kraft, who helped start the “Community Coalition of End of Life Care” in Portage County there. Ms. Kraft majored in social work and has worked in the hospice field.
She said the group provides “death education” to area schools, work places and churches.
This includes distributing a series of pamphlets from Willow Publishing.
For instance, the Road Home (Caring and support for those affected by terminal illness) covers such topics as: acceptance; bringing closure by sharing heartfelt feelings; how to provide comfort to the one dying; care for the caregiver(s); giving children age appropriate information…
In fact, there is a whole pamphlet on “Helping Children Understand Death,” which covers such topics as: teachable moments; honesty; feelings (sadness, crying…) are normal; describing the physiological process of dying to a child…
The point being, when there is more education, more informed care givers, and a more supportive community at large, all the stages of death (for the person dying and everyone else involved) becomes a much more meaningful and enriching part of life.
Ms. Kraft also said to me that one of the tragedies in modern America is that we have, for the most part, “taken death out of the home.” That is, many deaths now occur in hospitals, nursing homes, and the like.
That’s a situation that probably won’t happen at Sue Haug’s place in Seneca, Kansas. She has taken her mom, Lucille, 89, into her home. Seven of Lucille’s grown children still live in the area, and they all regularly provide care giving support to their mom who has dementia.
Sue told me the children would never think of putting Lucille in the nursing home and what they were doing was, for them, an extension of the Commandment: “Honor Thy Father and Mother.”
And while people like Lucille have extended family around them, some elderly don’t – for any number of reasons.
At Houghton in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we researched an organization called: "Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly." This is a "family" of volunteers, staff and donors who give their time, resources and friendship to people over 60 in any kind of need.
And for those who don’t have health insurance for a hospital or hospice as they near death, there are models like Malachi House. We visited Malachi House on the near Westside of Cleveland.
The two-story facility (a converted apartment) is staffed by volunteer nurses, doctors, and others in the general public. It is funded by individuals, churches, grants…
Fr. Paul Hritz, who helped start Malachi House some 10 years ago, told me the facility is a safety net for the poor, the homeless, the alone, at the time of their death as well.
What’s been described in these last few paragraphs is about building a quality “culture of life” all the way up to the time of natural death. This is an extremely proactive way to combat what seems an ever evolving “culture of death” in America these days.
To illustrate the latter, a book was recently released titled: Boomsday. The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried a book review by Allan Barra that started: “[Author] Christopher Buckley bases Boomsday on a wickedly funny idea. With an estimated 77 million baby boomers cresting toward retirement, the Social Security system appears imperiled. One theoretical solution would be a mass suicide of old boomers to relieve the tax burden on younger generations.”
While the book is fiction, one would wonder if the sentiment in some of the current population is not.
And one would have to also wonder that, besides the elderly becoming targets of coerced, premature death, what about the physically and mentally challenged being next?
Dan and Janet Feasal in Carey, Ohio, wonder that.
In a Human Life Alliance periodical on euthanasia that I came across at the Feasel’s home, Human Life’s President Marlene Reid wrote that a less talked about part of the Nazi Holocaust was the deliberate and systematic killing of children [and adults] with physical or mental disabilities.
Had two of the Feasel’s five children been born in Germany at the time of the Holocaust, they may well have been killed.
Matt, now 33 and Jared, now 22, had reactions to inoculations during the 1970s that left them both mentally and physically challenged.
The disabilities were significant enough that they would require the boys attend special schools, undergo physical therapy and, to this day, necessitate them having to live at home.
This, incidentally, turned out to be a tremendous blessing to us.
While at the Feasel’s, Matt let our young son Joseph play with his toy tractor collection and Jared took Joseph four wheeling (slowly) out back. Both demonstrated a love and caring toward Joseph that we rarely see in the often much more self-absorbed of Matt and Jared’s generation.
And to think under different circumstances, in a different time, in a different country… that love would have been extinguished with an injection in the basement of a German hospital.
Is that all that far off in America?
Our administration would work exhaustively to make sure it would be tremendously far off.
According to the website www.euthanasia.com, the following are main arguments against euthanasia:
Euthanasia devalues human life.
Euthanasia can become a means of health care cost containment.
Physicians and other medical care people should not be involved in directly causing death.
There is a “slippery slope” effect that has occurred where euthanasia has been first been legalizes for only the terminally ill and later laws are changed to allow it for other people, or to be done non-voluntarily.