Put me to Rest: Euthanasia and Human Dignity
It is becoming more and more acceptable to just let oneself die by injection and drug rather than endure suffering. Euthanasia is a sensitive issue. It’s often given the name ‘mercy killing’. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, euthanasia can be defined as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”. It would seem that “Thou shall not kill” is now slowly being seen as ” Thou shall not kill (unless someone asks you to kill them or the situation seems to tell you that murder would be easier than allowing someone else to live).
Blessed John Paul II addressed the issue of Euthanasia in May of 1980. He stated that ” etymologically speaking, in ancient times euthanasia meant an easy death without severe suffering. Today one no longer thinks of this original meaning of the word, but rather of some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. ” Euthanasia is seen as an option If the quality of life seems to be too low, or is too full of pain.
Physician-assisted suicide is accepted by many as a completely moral practice and an ‘easy way to go’. It puts an individual out of suffering caused by disease or extreme injury. There is one thing that we cannot forget. It is murder. The Catholic Church states that whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable (2277) . To stop the treatment of the disease is different. The intent is not to kill, but rather to allow for a facing of circumstances. According to the CCC, 2278 “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted (2278).”
The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. For example, if someone had been suffering from terminal cancer, and they chose to stop treatment ( such as chemotherapy or radiation treatments). They are not taking their own life, nor are others intently killing them, rather there is an acceptance of the circumstances.
Concerning this choice to end treatment, the CCC states:
Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged (2279).
Having said all of this, I would like to turn now to the issue of suffering. Christ’s Passion on the cross is the ultimate example of pain. He suffered greatly, and his experience as a human resonated as he cried “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” ( Matthew 27: 46). He suffered as any human would have suffered, but he also suffered in a divine way as well. He died not for just the entire world, but for each and every single person that would ever exist. His pain had to be enough of a sacrifice for every person. The suffering we experience here on Earth is nothing compared to the pain Christ had to endure for the sake of our sins.
It may be hard to watch our loved ones suffer. Or perhaps we will be the ones that must endure. In times of our pain, we must look to the cross. We must encourage one another during times of suffering to always look to Christ. He will help those that turn to Him during times of pain and comfort those who mourn.
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