Dear Sister Mary Rose,
I would like to first thank you for coming to speak with our class, expressing your personal views and expertise as well as those of the Catholic Church. And although I do not share your point of view I always value the opportunity to experience the views of others and have the chance to see a different side and obtain new information which I had not considered before, and your visit certainly did provide me with some new information. In my letter I will include the viewpoints of different groups as well as the experiences of several different individuals. All this serves to lay out and examine all the different views existent in society as far as euthanasia is concerned.

I understand the Catholic position. That all life is sacred no matter what and that it life should be protected at all stages. That it is not our place to interfere with god’s plan by taking a person’s life before their time, that if god wanted them to be dead then they would be dead. In the words of the Catholic Church’s official declaration on euthanasia, “such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan.” As well as the fact that the Catholic Church believes that there is nothing wrong with pain relief and making a patient as comfortable as possible until their time arrives. This is because of the principle of “extraordinary circumstances” that things which have become normal such as respirators and pain medication are common and do not interfere with god’s plan. But something like injecting a deadly substance into a person to quicken their end is not common and would classify as extraordinary means, and should not be undertaken. It is also common in the Catholic opinion that a call for death could actually be a cry for help, that “The pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love.” To sum it up, Catholics believe that killing is always wrong no matter what the circumstances, and we must not interfere with god’s will in this way. As well as the fact that most people who desire death are in reality, bereft of adequate love and kindness in their lifes.

The Hippocratic oath taken by every doctor and nurse, dictates that they will use their medical skills and expertise to only help and not harm their patients. For this reason many would argue that euthanasia is a direct violation of that oath. But from the perspective of doctors in the Netherlands, and their government, after a certain point when a patient can only suffer and modern medicine can do nothing for their suffering, which will ultimately result in death, then it is the doctor’s duty as dictated by the oath, to end the patient’s life if they so request, because it would end their suffering, thus helping the patient. In the words of Pieter Admiraal, a doctor from the Netherlands, “To fail to practice voluntary euthanasia under some circumstances is to fail the patient.” It is their belief that if a patient is suffering with no hope of relief, then if they have any sense of mercy, they must take mercy upon their patients by ending their suffering and hastening their inevitable death. Because it is legal, whenever a patient requests euthanasia, there is a policy to consider the case very carefully, consulting many medical and spiritual professionals, who must all reach a consensus that the patient is not only terminal and in immense suffering, but that they are completely certain they wish to die. Admiraal, a palliative care physician discussed how he handled a case in which a patient wished for euthanasia, “The gynecologist, the Roman Catholic chaplain and I discussed the case, and were all of the opinion that the patient’s wish should be respected.” It is also extremely important to remember that this principle is all about the patient’s choice. The option of euthanasia is never recommended, it is always only ever considered if the patient requests it, and even then it is made sure that the patient fully understands their condition and truly desires death as an end to their suffering. I think that the position of the Netherlands can be summed up fairly well in a statement by Admiraal about one of his patients by the name of Carla, “There are those who will be shocked by the case of Carla. They will be shocked because I took deliberate steps to end Carla’s life. By injecting a lethal drug, they will say, I killed Carla - and killing a patient is always morally wrong. The fact that Carla was terminally ill, was suffering greatly, and desperately wanted to die, those critics might say, does not make the action morally right. I take a contrary view: I believe it was morally proper to help Carla die in the way we did.”

Chris Hill was an extraordinary adventurer. A man who it could very well be said lived his life to the fullest. He traveled all over the world, seeing things that most people only see on their television sets. He used his body to it’s full extent when so many choose to instead let theirs waste away. In his own words, “In short, I once lived life to the max, always grateful that I had the opportunity to do just that” For someone like this it was impossible to imagine life as being nothing more than laying in a bed for the rest of his existence, not moving any part of his body and watching as before his eyes his body decayed with pressure sores, urinary tract infections, and hemorrhoids. He also experienced a damaged nerve, resulting in the dysfunction of two muscles in his arm, making his existence not just difficult but extremely painful, making every waking moment, perpetual suffering. He described his future as “Tomorrows were nothing but a grey void of bleak despair.” For him this was no existence at all, there wasn’t any kind of dignity in laying there and wasting away. Because of all of this, he wished to die. He wished to simply end his suffering and leave the world in a dignified manner, not being a burden and worry to his friends and family, as well as society at large. But because of other people’s feelings, he is kept from doing what should be his and only his choice. He describes the current institution saying, “I felt that the Legislature’s and the medical profession’s attitude of life at any cost was an inhumane presumption that amounted to arrogance.”

One of the groups that take a very strong stance on this issue are the physically handicapped. They see euthanasia as a slippery slope, that if medically assisted deaths are made legal, they will eventually result in their either being strongly encouraged to die, or being basically executed. Their fears are based in the idea that allowing people to have euthanasia puts a classification on the lives of those with conditions as being not worth living, and that other people will deem for them that they have no quality of life. One such person is Allison Davis. Allison Davis was born with spina bifida, an irreversible condition which has caused her immense pain and suffering throughout her lifetime. Yet despite this fact she still finds life very much worth livin
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g, and finds much joy in life, having graduated from college, getting married and experienced much of the same things that non-handicapped people experience. Her direct outrage is at a bill that would allow doctors to refuse treatment to babies born with severe handicaps which they believe would result in “no worthwhile quality of life” in response to this Davis has to say “Who could say I have ‘no worthwhile quality of life’? I am sure though that no doctor could have predicted when I was 28 days old (and incidentally had received no operation at all) that despite my physical problems I would lead such a full and happy life.” And this is a very valid point, at the beginning of birth, refusing to save the baby is not giving choice to the individual at all, it is simply allowing it to die, without knowing what it will make out of life.

My personal opinion is that physician assisted suicide should be legalized in the case of a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness, in addition to being in extreme unending and un-alleviated suffering and pain. This is owed to the patient not only because it would end their suffering in death which it would be eventually anyway. Aside from this, it is an individual's right to choose what they want to do with their life, as long as it does not endanger others. Nobody has the right to tell another individual what they can do with their life, and stop them from making the decision to end it. I fully respect the Catholic opinion and have no problem with the followers of that religion to make these choices based on their belief. But because of the fact that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right in this country, there is absolutely no reason that a religious argument on this issue should be considered, the day religious doctrine is translated into U.S. law is the day a dangerous precedent is set that laws can be passed which force the non-religious population to follow the rules of a religion which is not theirs. Furthermore, legalization of physician assisted suicide would not be violating catholic beliefs in any way. You yourself said that it is not the goal of the catholic church to enforce your beliefs on others, by making physician assisted suicide not even an option, you are forcing your beliefs on others, whereas passage of the law would not be infringing on any Catholic beliefs, because it will be a matter of choice and Catholics will be able to choose based on their belie

fs. I would also like to address this concern of a slippery slope in euthanasia. By making simply physician assisted suicide legal, it would be a certainty that it is truly the patient's wish, and that no one who wishes to live is wrongly killed. There should also be a wide range of regulations regarding euthanasia, by getting multiple opinions from a board of doctors of different disciplines, determining that the patient is truly in their right mind and desires death, also they should meet with therapists and psychologists, to ensure that there is no way they could live happily any longer. The argument that anyone can come to love their life with an extreme disability how

ever, is obviously false, as has been proven without a doubt by the case of Ramon San Pedro. This man who enjoyed a very active life, was injured and became a quadriplegic. Forcing his friends and family to revolve their lives around caring for him, he could not live with his body in that state, or the state in which he put his friends and family in. For these reasons he knew he did not wish to live any longer, however, his government, highly influenced by the Catholic church, did not allow it. And after thirty years of court battles and fighting for the right to end his life, he finally committed suicide with the help of his friends. It is clear from this that any case cannot simply be resolved by positive outlook and all the care modern medicine can provide. If that were truly the case, then Ramon would not still be determined to end his life after thirty years of fighting.

From the Catholic’s position of protecting sacred life and allowing for god’s will to take it’s course, to the policy of the Netherlands that whatever actions should take place which will benefit the patient, and if that includes easing their suffering through the only way possible, death, then that is acceptable. As long as the process is highly regulated, insuring absolute conviction as well as terminal status, paired with immense unrelievable suffering. Without legal guidelines such as this, organizations such as the Final Exit Network, whose procedures are much more lax, having cases reviewed by only one medical professional, without ever truly assessing the conviction of the patient. And other concerns such as those of the handicapped, and those in incredible suffering, who want nothing more than to die. All of these concerns are valid, and each has a large following. But it is my personal opinion, that euthanasia should be legalized with strict regulations to guard against abuses, so that those who are terminally ill can avoid a few extra days or weeks of unbearable pain before their end which will come soon anyway if they so choose.