In a comments section last week it was stated that a short series would begin today. With Thanksgiving tomorrow and a few other things on my plate, that will have to wait until next week. Fortunately CK, a regular guest blogger on Adam's Ale, sent an excellent post in so that I could have a little break today. Thank you CK! I hope everyone finds it as useful and well said as I did.
On November 6th, The City Club of Cleveland sponsored a talk by Barbara Coombs of the euthanasia advocacy group “Compassion and Choices”, formerly known as the Hemlock Society. In her speech Ms. Coombs claimed that her group promotes dignity and truth and religious groups, on the other hand, are in favor of dogma and guilt.
She told sad stories of patients who suffered because their end-of life wishes were ignored. But in all of her stories, the patients’ requests would have been acceptable to every major religious denomination, including the Catholic Church. None of them expressed the desire to poison themselves.
She claimed to be on the side of truth, but went on to say that poisoning yourself is not suicide, and a doctor prescribing poison is not euthanasia, it is “aid in dying”. (I recall a certain priest cleverly suggesting that if we call toxic waste “drinking water” we still should not dump it in our rivers.)
She claims that Churches and those with conservative values impose guilt and shame, but her group advocates for advanced directives that ask a patient if they want to be a “burden to their families” by extending their lives and or if they want to live lives that are “useless”. Who is causing guilt and shame here?
Contrary to what Ms. Coombs claimed, the Catholic Church does not demand that death “always be fought” (an extraordinary accusation to launch at a Church full of martyrs). In all of the examples she sites, the Church would have allowed the cessation of the extraordinary means she described. The Church even allows as much pain medication as necessary to eliminate pain, even if it shortens life, but doesn’t directly cause it. The Church only demands that you allow the patient to die of their disease or condition, not of poisoning or dehydration.
If someone in unbearable emotional pain tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, we don’t stand back and say, “Well, they are exercising their autonomy.” We run to their rescue. If they poisoned themselves instead of jumping off a bridge it still would not be a “death with dignity”. The Catholic Church tries to end the pain, not the person.
It is Christian churches who have true mercy on the dying by lavishing their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with a love that makes many patients change their minds about suicide. The Catholic Church asserts their inherent dignity, even when the patient’s life is seemingly unproductive and full of suffering, like Christ on the cross. Euthanasia is the false mercy that releases the living from their duty to care for the dying and to suffer with them, the true meaning of empathy. It is my hope that Catholics succeed in showing the world who is really on the side of truth and dignity here.