Dear Sister Mary Rose,

My name is Niki, and I was raised in a household where we didn't have a religion, much like you. Because of this, I have learned to develop my own opinion on pressing issues such as euthanasia without religion influencing my point of view. Although I do not agree with some of the points you made, I really appreciate the time you took out of your day to explain yours and the Catholic Church's point of view. Before this lesson, I had a very different perspective on this pressing and delicate issue. I understand where people are coming from even if it is not something I agree with, and my views have been shaped by many, including Alison Davis, Chris Hill, the Catholic view, and the Netherlands' policy.

Catholics believe that euthanasia is a "rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan," or in other words, suicide (no matter the reason) is the equivalent to committing your own murder, even if the person is suffering from a terminal illness. All life is held at the same value, whether it is in a vegetative state or one without any handicaps. They think that if euthanasia is legalized, it will just all go downhill from there. It is a "slippery slope" and before society knows it, people will be getting away with murder. Catholics believe that a person will die when God wants them to, and no one will take extraordinary means to save a life. However, this is rapidly changing because "extraordinary means" 20 years ago can be ordinary means today. Euthanizing and committing suicide is messing with God's plan. They think that "it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity." Euthanasia is just taking the easy way out.

Alison Davis is a strong spokesperson for the Catholic view. She was born with Spina Bifeta, and doctors recommended to her parents that they not leave her at the hospital and try for another healthy baby. However, they did not give up on her. At 28, she is entirely grateful for her parents' decision. She said, "Who could say I have 'no worthwhile quality of life'?" Although in pain, she has learned to live with her disability and live her life as fully as she can with her faith in God and her love for her husband.

However, the Netherlands' point of view is the complete opposite. Voluntary euthanasia is not something people look down on, but it is rather seen as a blessing when they might want it available. After many review a patient's case and talk to them, they are either approved or denied. In one hospital in the Netherlands, a team of two doctors, a nurse, and a spiritual caregiver (sometimes Catholic) must take the patient's case into close consideration before making their life-or-death decision. However, active voluntary euthanasia is only legal if the patient is in their terminal stage of cancer. If they aren't then they will be prosecuted, just like Dr. Admiraal when he helped Esther die when her illness hadn't progressed enough yet. Thankfully, the charges were dropped. Dr. Admiraal said, "Active voluntary euthanasia is but one more way of delivering humane medical care." Instead of letting a patient starve to death, they help them- quick and painlessly- to spare them the pain of their progressed illness. The Dutch's rule is that if the patient cannot be helped, then the doctors should respect their patient's wishes.

Chris Hill's situation reflects the Netherlands' perspective well. Born able-bodied, he enjoyed his life largely through physical activity and adventure in foreign places all over the world. When he was rendered a quadriplegic from a hang-gliding accident, he no longer felt that every day was a new day to try new and exciting things. Instead, he thought that they were just days to get through, without all of the joys he had before his accident. In his suicide note, he talked about the process of disposing of his waste. Sometimes, he would wake up to find that he was covered in his own feces. He regarded them as "Unbearable abominations that made me feel less than human. For me, it was no way to live." Hill believed his life was not worth living, so after apologizing to his loved ones and explaining to them why in his letter, he killed himself, relieving him of his physical and emotional pain.

Before this section, I hadn't even begun to think about euthanasia, advanced directives, or even the concept of peacefully ending someone's life. If someone had explained to me what it was, I would have thought it preposterous. But after learning about it, I do believe it should be available to those who want it in their final days, but only to those with terminal illnesses. Kevorkian, or Dr. Death, tried to do just that but was punished for giving his patients the chance to die with dignity. Although he was a bit crazy, he had his patients' best interest in mind, and for that he should not have been punished.

Paraplegics and quadriplegics, however, shouldn't be able to get them. Instead of their body deteriorating, it's their way of thinking. They are fully capable of living a long, healthy, and fulfilling life, despite being handicapped. If they wish to be dead, then they are suicidal and should be treated for depression. In "Million Dollar Baby", the main character Maggie gets paralyzed in a boxing match. She begs her coach Frankie to kill her, because she doesn't think her life will be worth living anymore. Reluctantly, he does while she's still in the hospital with her injuries. She took the easy way out. She could have tried to cope with her injuries, tried, and at least waited until she was out of the hospital to decide. Her choice was not only impulsive, but also put Frankie in great turmoil with the potential to get arrested for murder when she could have dealt with her paraplegia and tried to move on. Quadriplegics should also not be permitted to be euthanized. Ramon Sanpedro was paralyzed from the neck down, and desperately wanted a way out. After 28 years, he finally got his wish. However, if he just changed his perspective on life, his wish would not have been wanted in the first place.

Although some may not want to face it, everyone should think about their death and its complications. Terri Schiavo was bulimic, and as a result developed a massive potassium deficiency. She became a vegetable for years, and unfortunately had no advanced directive. Her husband and her family fought in court over whether she should be disconnected from life support, or kept on it in the hope that she really was responsive and could understand things. After seven years of court dates, her husband finally won- Her feeding tube was removed and she died from starvation 14 days later. If Terri had an advanced directive, things would be clear and there would be no need for the nation-wide turmoil. Her family was keeping her alive because they didn't want to let go; Terri was no longer there, it was just her body being kept alive by machines.

Thank you for coming and talking to my class and sharing the Catholic view. It was interesting to hear a different belief expressed and explained. It was a great opportunity for me to hear you speak about euthanasia and I'm very grateful you came.

Niki F