Chaser: We, the ones in power, and the not suffering, will be the ones determining what "suffering" is. This is the nasty reality underlying the recent movie Me Before You. The culture now tells itself that enabling a loved one to die is actually the humane thing to do because, well, we wouldn't want to live as they do. Besides, health costs are, well, expensive.
There is pushback, thank God. After all, when the physically-challenged themselves speak, they often express the same desire for life the rest of us seek. Why do we want them dead?
Photo courtesy Aleteia post by Ella Frech--keep riding!
The Church's Gospel of Life, of course, combats (peaceably!) this seductively corrosive and self-applied secular acid. Life, a complex mystery given by the loving God, involves the capacity for equally stupefying heights and lows. St. John Paul II embodied the path he showed the rest of us, a path given him and us by Jesus: love.
The New York Catholic Conference thus maintains its opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
Given today’s aging population, the significant spike in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the increasing evidence of elder abuse, and the escalation of health care costs, the risks of coercion and abuse are very real.
New York State rightly spends millions of dollars each year in efforts to prevent suicide. There are suicide hotline numbers, anti-bullying campaigns, programs to recognize suicidal symptoms and government-sponsored signs that read “Life Is Worth Living.” Legalizing assisted suicide would send an inconsistent message by saying that some lives are not worth living. This double standard would be based entirely on disability, as patients fear “losing autonomy” or “being a burden” to others because of their disabilities from terminal illness.
Lifting New York’s ban on assisted suicide would provide a deadly, unnecessary option to patients, many of whom legitimately fear pain, depression and abandonment. These persons can be significantly helped through pain relief, palliative care, the hospice environment and compassionate loving care.
In a nutshell, the convenience of physician-assisted suicide, or any other form of euthanasia with even fewer restrictions, should be resisted. It is convenient only when we are the ones in power. Once the tables are turned, when we are the ones in need of care, we hope those then in power act with compassion, not convenience. But then it will be too late, because then our own lives won't be the ones worth living--and that's a recognition none of the euthanasia-supporters want to confront. Their lives will always be worth living; it's always somebody else's life that's inconveniently long. The Sheriff in Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men captured it this way:
I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”
Exactly. Some day that empowered call you so desire will be turned against you...and then what?
St. John Paul II and the Catholic social justice tradition do not want to end the conversation so much as to infuse end-of-life decisions--another reality we must face--with love and justice for all involved, not just those who temporarily hold the reigns of cultural and personal power.