By Judie Brown
Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” could very well describe our efforts to protect the vulnerable from imposed death.
We have long known that those who are suffering and dying are easy prey for organizations committed to a practice of prematurely ending lives under the guise of a “right to die.” But in our day matters have become far more crucial due to a number of factors, including social media messaging, population bubbles like aging baby boomers, and the belief by many that death should be arranged to suit the patient, not the Lord.
AARP tells its readers that the ratio of caregivers to those who are growing old is widening. That could be devastating. In fact, this statistic prompted the editors of the Berkshire Eagle to opine: “With the baby-boom generation reaching the twilight of life, the right-to-die issue has acquired great immediacy. Now that existing laws have been proven safe and effective in other states, it's time for Massachusetts to follow suit. It's the humane thing to do.”
Humane? You see, just like putting down the family dog, putting down an ailing person is going to become a necessity!
With narratives like this, we are grateful for men like Marine Corps veteran J. J. Hanson. Hanson told Fox News he is thankful that he was not offered assisted suicide three years ago when he received a diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer and was given just a few months to live. Hanson, along with his supportive family, fought the cancer. He has defied the odds and is now doing much better. To help others in his same situation, he founded the Patients Rights Action Fund. His first challenge is working with Congress to see that a bi-partisan resolution condemning physician-assisted suicide is passed.
Sadly, not everyone thinks as clearly as Hanson, including brain cancer sufferer Jeffrey Davitz. Davitz writes that his “very-near-furious commitment to assisted suicide was driven as much by a need to exert control over my body and fate as it was by a desire to avoid pain.” Like Hanson, Davitz has survived longer than originally predicted, and though he is happy that he did not choose assisted suicide, he remains open to it in the future. He closed his article stating: “We do what we can, and luck will, in its own time, usher us on to some other world. The chances are excellent that my original diagnosis is correct (I believe it is) and that at some point, the inevitable will happen, and I will die by my own hand or by fate.”
Davitz is clearly conflicted, but not so with the proponents of palliative care, a practice that is used with greater intensity to relieve suffering and provide a means to death to those who are ill.
According to Webster, to palliate is “to reduce the violence of (a disease); also: to ease (symptoms) without curing the underlying disease: drugs to palliate the pain.” And while there may be nothing wrong with that practice, Center to Advance Palliative Care expert Betty Ferrell is looking ahead to the growing number of elderly on the horizon and suggesting that palliative medicine needs to up its game so that everyone has access for any number of reasons.
Some of our trusted pro-life experts in this field define this sort of attitude as the advancement of the “third path” of the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement. Dr. Elizabeth Wickham wrote some years ago about this, admonishing us to stay watchful in order to see the problem, expose it, and strive to educate others about it. She teaches: “Through education, prayer and surrender we can identify and resist the moral pitfalls placed in our way by ‘third path’ proponents who are working to create and institutionalize a palliative care paradigm that does not adhere to the Divine Plan. This will require vigilance and firm adherence to moral principles.”
Pray for those who suffer, learn more about the moral alternatives to imposed death, and encourage those who teach your children to use our Culture of Life Studies Program’s resources, including Euthanasia: An Introduction—a supplement for high school students—to teach respect for the dignity of all human beings.
When we talk about the subject of death with those who have concerns about assisted suicide, palliative care, and other troubling means of causing death, we must do so with confidence and charity. We must never forget that we are called to “Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light.”