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.
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