By Judie Brown
St. Augustine of Hippo’s prayer “Our heart is restless until it rests in You” is more than timely. This is so because there are far too many people in 2023 whose death is hastened by the very people whose profession calls them to take care of them. As the Death with Dignity organization states,
“Our goal is to ensure people with terminal illness can decide for themselves what a good death means in accordance with their values and beliefs, and that should include having an option for death with dignity. We won’t stop until that is a reality in every part of the country.”
Note the use of the words good death. The danger in such words has always been with us. As a reminder, it was nearly 20 years ago when physician Eric Chevlen addressed this very question, saying,
“Depression in the face of advanced illness is as treatable as it is in those who are otherwise healthy. . . . The treatment might include medicine, counseling, or prayer, but it surely does not include a lethal injection.”
One wonders if quadriplegic Joshua Barras, who suffered a brain injury after a failed suicide, would be a candidate for imposed killing. Barras is confined to a wheelchair and in 2021, even though he could sing along with videos, smile, and breathe on his own, his fate was uncertain as others are responsible for his care.
Further, while those who are suffering and acutely ill should be treated without concern for their lives being intentionally taken, situations occur daily that confirm the desire to kill the patient rather than provide treatment. As a recent report explains, the financial status of some hospice providers brings into question whether or not staff are “preying on the dying, a particularly vulnerable patient population.”
A further challenge is the matter of whether or not brain death declarations are truly accurate or merely an excuse for robbing a still-living patient of his vital organs. While this may sound totally unimaginable in our enlightened age, the facts are clear. In Canada, the concern is real. Ethicists point out that even though organ donation should be employed after death, “treating humans and their bodies as means to other ends” can create ethical problems. Note that
“Canada’s end-of-life policies already incentivize death. If donors request death, not only is the difficulty of obtaining consent more easily settled, so is the issue of preserving organs.”
And while there may be a question about whether or not that same procedure for acquiring organs occurs in the US, a short search of current practices makes it clear that yes, if a patient is nearly dead and his organs are intact, why not render him dead.
The same mentality exists at the beginning of life, as we know all too well. In Texas quite recently a judge ruled that the law that allegedly curtailed abortion was “too restrictive.” He claimed the law did not address “women with serious pregnancy complications and [that it must] must allow exceptions without doctors fearing the threat of criminal charges.”
To be clear, the ethics of medical practice are failing the most vulnerable people in our midst, be they approaching birth or death. In a macabre situation like that in this nation, you must either safely escape the womb to live or escape the clutches of a killer to die according to God’s timeline.
While the song “Killing Me Softly” affirms life despite pain and sorrow, the reality today is that unsuspecting people are being killed and there is nothing soft about it. It is a vicious practice with a fatal end.