Dear Sister Mary Rose,

First and foremost, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to visit us and discuss the Catholic perspective in regards to euthanasia. It was interesting to get a different perspective on the topic and hear your own thoughts about it. Before discussing this controversial subject, I really hadn't given much thought to the idea. But I've now discovered that there are many different ideas and views on euthanization and physician-assisted suicide.

The Catholic position on euthanasia is straight forward in it's opposition of the idea. It would go against divine law to take life. It's God given, thus should also be taken by God. It's viewed as "an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity". It is believed that even a said "mercy killing" is still a killing and regardless of the circumstances, a sin is a sin is a sin. I've also learned that the Catholic church has reasonable and seemingly humane methods of dealing with those who are seriously physically impaired or terminally ill. "As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor's advice." From what I understand, the preservation of life is at the root of Catholic beliefs. It's the most precious gift that can be bestowed by God and henceforth should be cared for and protected until God Himself sees it befitting to end it.

Those who are living with a physical disability are also advocates against euthanasia. Allison Davis, who was born with spina bifida and must use a wheel chair. She wrote passionately about the fact that she was luckily able to continue living after the experts had told her parents to leave her at the hospital and try again with the hopes of having a normally functioning child. Davis prospered, despite the expert advice that was given and graduated with an honors degree in sociology. Davis has lived a life well traveled with her able-bodied husband. Davis argues that no one has the right to say that she has "no worthwhile quality of life", seeing as she's accomplished so much. Davis also spoke out for the newborn babies that are born with disabilities saying that "this notion of 'non-personhood' denies the right of handicapped people to be recognized as equal human beings,". Allison Davis believes that a plentiful and fulfilling life can be tangible to all people, even those who suffer from disabilities and to deny those people of the opportunity to redeem that potential is wrong.

There is also another side of the argument from those who must live with the inability to function the way most humans do. Chris Hill was an Australian man who had been blessed with incredible opportunities and experienced life the way some could only dream of. He traveled, the world, met new and interesting people, and dined on a variety of odd foods. He had a caring family whom he loved very much. He "lived life to the max" and was often mindful of living in the present. So when a hand-gliding accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, it was quite a different life. He thought about life in a new light, full of "grey tomorrows". No sitting, walking, running, swimming, biking, or hiking could ever be seen in his future. He lived in shame, feeling that he was a burden to those who surrounded him. He couldn't clean himself or get dressed. Normal bodily functions had to be done manually, and Hill was less than enthused about having to be assisted in such private matters. His body began to deteriorate due to its lack of use. "I wept every morning when I saw myself in the mirror. I'd become a hunchback with a bloated pot belly above withered legs with muscled as soft and useless as marshmellow". Chris decided that it was no way to live. After four attempts at ending his own life, he had had enough. Chris was consistent in saying that he did not want to be alive. "It's quality of life, not quantity, that's important." He realized that it would hurt and upset those who cared about him, but in his final words, he said "Anyway, death is the last great adventure, and I was always ready for it."

Voluntary active euthanasia has become a regulated practice in the Netherlands. Pieter Admiraal said that "to fail to practice voluntary active euthanasia under some circumstances is to fail the patient". At the Dutch hospital, the comfort and consent of the patient is vital. They take the patient's opinion into heavy consideration when discussing possible solutions for those suffering from terminal illnesses. In one specific case of a patient who was living with a malignant tumor on one if her ovaries. She underwent chemotherapy, her condition improved, and then relapsed. And this time, chemo didn't help. Within months, she was readmitted to the hospital. Her pain was controlled by a continuous morphine drip, but she feared that it would eventually become to much to handle. Her family was obviously distressed that she immediately decided to speak with her doctor about possible options, among them the topic of euthanasia. Towards the end of her suffering, the patient was very clear with her wishes and gave her reasoning that "God could not have wanted this,". There were many people who were in arms about this decision, but Dr.Admiraal stated believed that "it was morally proper to help [her] die in the way we did." To counter the arguments that say that the majority of euthanasia recipients were simply trying to end the pain, Admiraal says that "pain is very seldom the reason why patients request euthanasia" and that in only 5 percent of all cases was pain the sole reason for the request. He believes that doctors have two primary duties to ensure the well being of their patients: 1) to try to restore the patients health and reduce their suffering, 2) to listen closely and respect the wishes of the patient. He says that they "do not regard it as a separate from the delivery of terminal care, but rather as the last dignified act of terminal care".

Personally, I disagree with a lot of the ideas that oppose euthanasia. I understand the religious stand points, but I don't believe that they should be forced on anyone who has not previously agreed to the ideology. In the case of Juan SanPedro who suffered as a "head in a bed" for nearly 30 years, I believe that it should not have taken him so long to finally gain control over his life. If he's conscious and aware for that long, he should be able to make his own decisions. He was the only one who could have experienced his own existence and no one should have been allowed to make such drastic decisions for him. In the case of Terri Schiavo, test results had shown the her brain had deteriorated dramatically over the course of her hospitalization. Any physical reactions that family members could see were not consciously done. Terri was no longer there. The lights were on, the house was empty. I believe that a person is not their body, but their mind.If their mind has deteriorated, the only thing left is the vessel for which life was lived through. I believe that it was selfish of the family to refuse to let Terri go. Dr. Kevorkian was seen as a terrorist and a criminal by many people for practicing physician-assisted suicides on the elderly. What I feel a lot of people disregard is the fact that Kevorkian was very selective in his process when it came to deciding who he would help. He didn't just allow any depressed person to off themselves with a tank of gas. He helped old couples, where one spouse was suffering from Alzheimer's and refused to reach the point where they would no longer be able to recognize their loved ones. He helped those who were suffering from muscle deteriorating diseases, where it was painful to function in everyday life. There has been much protest from the physically disabled society saying that legalizing euthanasia would be the first step down a "slippery slope" to a barbaric society that would kill any disabled person that they found. My response to this close minded idea is that they need to get over themselves. I know it sounds harsh, but I find it ridiculous that they think that there will actually be search parties that go out and look for people to euthanize. It has nothing to do with "building a stronger human race" but about allowing other to be in charge of their own lives.

In conclusion, I'd like to once again thank you for talking to us about your thoughts and beliefs and although I may not agree with some of them, I still appreciated being able to hear them.

Amelia G.