Life with Dignity: a Personal Plea against Assisted Suicide

Saint Augustine wrote, “it is never licit [right] to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”.  (Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320)

For centuries, good and brilliant people have been advocating respect for human life.  I am not so very good, and certainly not brilliant, but the issue of assisted suicide, the so-called “right to die with dignity”, is very important to me. Physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is the law in some states, like Oregon, Washington, and California. Other states have sought to pass similar legislation, including my own state of New Hampshire. When attempts fail, advocates continue to push and I’m sure that more proposed bills will be coming to a state or country near you – perhaps your own.  Here, I don’t offer pages of arguments against these laws.  Instead, I offer a heartfelt plea against “Death with Dignity” in the hope of saving countless innocent lives.

Christina Chase, disability rights, pro-life

My Life

Do you know what it’s like to be weaker than an infant, laboring daily to breathe, ravaged by an incurable disease, completely and utterly dependent on others for every basic need of survival? I do.  Although I am not terminally ill, but rather chronically ill, I know that one chest cold can turn into pneumonia and kill me… probably an agonizing death over days… or weeks.  Living all of my life with a progressive motorneuron disease, I have slowly weakened over time, becoming more crippled up and deformed, losing strength, losing simple abilities, losing energy, losing privacy. My family and paid home health aides feed me, brush my teeth, clean me of waste, bathe me, dress and undress me, transfer me to and from my wheelchair… and more. My parents have made tremendous sacrifices in order to help me survive each day. They are sacrificing their time, energy, strength — their own personal lives — for my life. And there have been times when I have wondered… is my life worth all of this? … all of this work, sacrifice and heartache? Continue reading

From the Womb to the World: Ready for Birth

8 month fetusYou looked something like this drawing while you were in your mother’s womb, waiting to be born into the world – though you had unique and wonderful differences.  You took this time of waiting to practice blinking and breathing, preparing your still not quite refined lungs to breathe air.  In the last 11 weeks of your life in utero, your weight doubled!  The extra layer of fat you developed protected you from the change of temperature in the transition from the womb to the world.  If all went well, you initiated your own birth.  In the last phase of life in utero, you dropped lower in the womb in a head-down position and then triggered labor to begin.

At any moment in the last two months of your mother’s pregnancy, you could have been born.  Perhaps, you were premature.  Today’s advances in medicine allow very premature babies’ lungs to get what they need.  Many babies born a whole month early need very little extra help at all.  The only change for babies after birth, whether premature or not, is a change in external life support – then, mothers provided through the womb; now, survival is helped outside of the womb.

Nothing magical happened to you when you were born that made you human.  You were always human from the moment of your conception!  You didn’t change after you were born, except in the way in which you received oxygen and nourishment.  You were always growing, developing, and striving to survive and to thrive – and you continued this growth, development, and quest for survival while being born, as well as after your exit from the womb.  You are still developing, surviving, and hopefully thriving, today!

Parents can experience something wonderful in the moment when they first see their baby’s eyes, and, so, it’s natural for them to feel the most awe after birth.  Newborns themselves, however, cannot see very well.  But they can hear, and were listening – and even learning – for months before birth, as fetuses.

As a newborn, you yourself readily recognized the voice of the woman who carried you for the first nine months of life and preferred that voice to all others.  Stories read to you and lullabies sung to you in utero were still recognized by you after you were born into the world.  You had been hearing them, learning their particular rhythms and cadences, and growing familiar with them.  So, it’s only natural that you preferred them to any new story or lullaby introduced to you after birth.  Scientific research proves this.  And, yet, you may still be amazed by the facts.  Why?  Do you not know that you were you, unique and wonderful you, at the instant that you were conceived?

Before God formed you in the womb, He knew you.  Our Creator knit you uniquely together.  By Him, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Created in His Own Image, you are His beloved creature of flesh and spirit.  Your body is amazing and beautiful, but mortal.  Your soul is even more amazing and beautiful – and immortal.  Body and soul, you are one beautifully amazing human being!  You were lovingly created by God to know, love, and serve God in this complex and amazing life – and to be happy with God forever in the next.  You were created for a reason, for you have a divine mission that only you can fulfill.  May you always remember that your life here on earth has divine purpose – and that eternal bliss waits for you.  Rejoice and be glad!

What was true on your very first day of life in utero is still true today, no matter how old you are or in what kind of physical circumstances you live: it is good, it is very good, that you are here.  And God blesses you as you strive to be the person of love, truth, and goodness that you were created to be.

Every life is sacred.

© 2016 Christina Chase


Sources:

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/third-trimester-old

The Endowment for Human Development:

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit18.php

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit19.php

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, Respect Life: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

Psychology Today: Fetal Psychology

Genesis 1:27

Jeremiah 1:5

Psalms 139

Baltimore Catechism part 1

Sensing the Great Big World: 7 Month Fetus

7 month fetusWhen your mother began her third trimester of pregnancy, you looked a lot like this
picture.  During your seventh month in utero, you began to use all five of your senses!

Sight:

Ultrasound reveals that babies at this age like to open their eyes and look around.  What were the first things that you saw?  In the dark safety of the womb, the first thing that your eyes were able to distinguish was light.  “… God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” [1] You could see sunlight and artificial light as it penetrated through the uterine wall, and your pupils dilated and constricted in order to better see in your watery world.

Sound:

With your cochlea, the hearing organ of your inner ear, fully developed, you’d been able to hear a variety of sounds for quite a while.  At this particular age, you could even distinguish between different voices!  “…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Smell:

At this age, important parts of your nose were fully operational, so that you had a fully functional sense of smell.  Scientific studies show that infants born prematurely, at just 26 weeks in the womb, can detect different odors.

Taste:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalms 34:9) Swallowing amniotic fluid, you tasted what your mother ate while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, developing that affinity for the foods of home.  Do you like licorice and those black jellybeans?  Chances are that your mother ate something anise flavored while pregnant!  Food tastes travel fast from mom to baby – reaching your little taste buds in just 45 minutes!  Sweet tastes would make you swallow faster and bitter tastes would cause a less pleased reaction that even showed in the expression on your face!

Touch:

“With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together.” (Job 10:11)  You had been sensitive and reactive to touch from a very early age, by just five weeks in utero.  As you grew, more and more of your body detected touch and pressure and you even felt pain.  By seven months in utero, your entire body was capable of feeling touch and the grasp of your hand was even stronger than it was right after you were born!

And you were on the move!  Through a series of walking like motions, you liked to do somersaults!  You received antibodies from your mother at this age, that would protect you from a wide variety of diseases.  Small as you were, had you been born at this time, it’s highly likely that you would have survived – a chance that increases with ever improving medical technology.  Your brain waves, at this stage of fetal development, were similar to those of a full-term newborn – and you could even cry.  Yet, shockingly, babies in utero are not, by governmental law, considered human beings at this point in life.  Abortion is still legal in the third trimester of pregnancy.

© 2016 Christina Chase

from original post on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development:  https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit16.php

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-26-30

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Science

Photo Image: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[1] Genesis 1:3

Dream a Little Dream: 6 Month Fetus

By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs.  What was your first playlist?  Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two.  Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.

Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.

You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.

6 month fetusWhen you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes.  All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.…  Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”[1]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

from an original post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

[1] Job 33:15

Abortion and the Democratic Party Platform

After the 2016 DNC, I have a question:  Why is the Democratic Party making it more difficult for me to vote for Democrats?

Since I don’t usually get into politics here, let me start by stating that I am a pro-life independent.  And, yes, by pro-life I mean all of life.  I’m not a hypocrite.  So, I’m against the death penalty, human embryonic destruction, needless destruction of wildlife habitats, euthanasia, preemptive missile strikes, elective abortions, etc.. I subscribe to neither of the major US political party’s platforms, because neither party’s platform holds all of my beliefs.  Therefore, I choose between both Democrats and Republicans when I vote, being open to members of “third parties”, as well.  And I do vote, taking this civic responsibility very seriously, just as I was raised to do by my family here in New Hampshire.

The Platform of the Democratic Party used to contain the goal of making abortions “more rare.”  But, that kind of thinking is long gone among the party majority and leaders.  The language of the 2016 platform, regarding abortion, states that the Party upholds a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.  Among Democrats, indeed, the rhetoric has been building for years toward equating abortions – even elective abortions – to healthcare.

To be clear, I not only believe that human beings begin at conception, I also know it.  There is no other point, scientifically speaking, at which we can state that a human being becomes a human being.[1]  Is the termination of a pregnancy, then, as a “healthcare decision”, merely the removal of some kind of growth?  No.  Not unless every human being is a mere “cluster of cells” or “clump of tissue” – and the Democratic Party isn’t saying that.  (So far.)  Continue reading