Dear Sister Mary Rose,
Hello again. I am Daisy, the girl with the shaved head who kept asking you questions about using ordinary versus extraordinary means to save lives in class the other day. I hope you didn't think I was being rude, I was just trying to understand. I had never met a nun before, so it was areal treat to hear the perspective on euthanasia from someone directly involved in the church. Being a skeptic initially, I have come to learn and understand all sides of the spectrum of opinions on euthanasia, which has helped me draw my own conclusion. Here is what I have learned so far:

As I am sure you already know, in a nut shell, the Catholic Church does not support euthanasia. Catholics see euthanasia as a violation of our God-given right to life. The Catholic Church states, that "no authority can legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity." They consider euthanasia as a way to opt out of suffering; an idea meant for us as a human race to fulfill, as Jesus had suffered for us. However, the Catholic Church directly states, "when inevitable death is imminent, in spite of the means used,it is permitted in conscience, to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted." In short, euthanasia is considered acceptable in the very last moments of life to ease the journey into heaven. But by no means is euthanasia acceptable in cases which are not considered "terminal" such as paraplegia.

Allison Davis is here to represent the views of the disabled in this whole discussion. She was born with a serious spinal condition, forcing her into a wheelchair from birth. Her claim on the whole issue, is that the legalization of euthanasia devalues the lives of the handicapped, giving their life less worth than their healthy counterparts. She writes, "who could say I have 'no worthwhile quality of life? I am sure no doctor could have predicted at 28 days old (and incidentally having received no operation at all) that despite my physical problems I would lead such a full and happy life" and who could have known! "This notion of 'non-personhood' denies the right of handicapped people to be recognized as equal human beings in a caring society, and it makes a mockery of the goodwill which seemingly abounded in the International Year of Disabled People." These laws "will lead to a second Holocaust" due to the discrimination euthanasia causes amongst "normal people." Davis believes, that the legislation proposed to legalize doctor assisted suicide, will "lead to the de facto decriminalization of the act of killing a handicapped person of any age, just as it did in Hitler's Germany." Davis feels if legislation is passed, it will lead to the downfall of millions of disabled people because of the thin line that is crossed on what is considered to be "terminal illness." Davis says, "When we get too old to be considered 'useful' amd all friends who could have spoken in our defence have already been oh so lovingly 'alloweed to die." Her personal opinion seems to hold true for much of the disabled population, including many activist groups such as the People with Disabilities Opposing the Legalization of Assisted Suicide (or PWDOLAS), who have had protests at movie premieres for Million Dollar Baby and various other pro-euthanasia events.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a man named Chris Hill who broke his back after a bizarre hang-gliding accident, and became a quadriplegic. "I [Hill] once lived to the max, always grateful that I had the opportunity to do just that, and always mindful to live for today because there may be no tomorrow" Hill writes in his suicide note. Hill could not live his once full life as a traveling journalist in a wheel chair, dependent on other people. "I [Hill] worked to live, not lived to work...There's no future for a wheelchair-bound journalist, not one with my interests anyway." Hill had already attempted suicide a number of times, against his families wishes, and this time he meant it for real. It was his own personal choice to die. He writes, "for me, it was no way to live... I would rather die than return to hospital." Hill had made up his mind. He would not be a burden to his family, and he would commit suicide and die with dignity, rather than in his current state. "I accepted death - embraced it eagerly, in fact, after so many months of the nightmare - without fear or regret. I had a full, rewarding and successful life by any measure, and in my last weeks, I couldn't think of a single thing I'd always wanted to do but hadn't done yet" he writes as a final goodbye to his family. Hill's views on euthanasia are clear: a person's autonomy is the most important part in making the final decision to commit suicide. Doctor assisted suicide should be legal for all who want it. In his official statement, Hill writes, "Suicide is not a crime and I have the right not to be handled or treated against my will...Anyone who disregards this notice will be committing a civil and criminal offense against me." Hill considers stopping his suicide a criminal offense against him! Euthanasia should be determined by the patient and the patient only, in Hill's personal opinion, and the patient's autonomy should be respected, so they will not have to go through the agony of multiple suicide attempts, like Hill had.

Lastly, we heard the perspective of the Dutch in the Netherlands, where doctor assisted suicide is legal and happens on a regular basis. Doctor Peiter Admiraal tell us about his experience as a doctor who has assisted in the deaths of his patients. "I practice it [euthanasia] unashamedly because I regard it as sometimes morally right, as not only compatible with the properly understood duties and responsibilities of a doctor, but as an act sometimes required by them" writes Admiraal. "As doctors, we have two primary duties: to ensure the well-being of our patients, and to respect their autonomy" Pieter sees no moral difference between suicide and doctor assisted suicide. "There is no morally relevant difference between these two forms of euthanasia. In both cases, the doctor acts out of respect for the autonomy of the patient. In both cases life is shortened. In both cases, the doctor has performed an act which has led to the patient's death; and in both cases, the doctor must take responsibility for that action - regardless of wether it involves, say, turning off a respirator (supposedly an act of passive euthanasia), or the administration of a lethal injection" How the person dies should not be a matter of who administers the drugs, but rather is it done safely and effectively to ensure the desired result, and who better to carry out those requirements than a doctor? Just because euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands does not mean the act is frivolous, however. Admiraal writes, "...we always hesitate. A patient's request for euthanasia may, after all, be a cry for help - prompted perhaps by shortcomings in the delivery of palliative care." There is a process in which several other doctors, the patient's family, and a religious leader are involved in to decide if euthanasia is a logical decision for the particular patient. Admiraal claims to turn down a large percentage of his patients, because their request is not necessarily a logical outlet, even though their autonomy is respected. "The notion of 'terminal illness' is slippery...I do not accept that there is a slippery slope. A clear moral and legal boundary can be drawn on the notion of consent." Doctors who practice assisted suicide in the Netherlands have an enormous respect for a patient's autonomy. The final decision to cooperate with the patient is analyzed over and over again to ensure that this would be considered the best option for the person at hand, including their autonomy, not just their physical incapabilities. Admiraal even argues that the legalization of doctor assisted suicide strengthens the bond between doctor and patient, and does not hinder it in any way."The acceptance of active voluntary euthanasia has improved the relationship [between doctor and patient]. Patients know that they can count on doctors when they need them most: when, because of terminal or incurable illness they are vulnerable, and in danger of being denied the basic human right to say: 'Enough is enough. I want to die with my dignity intact. Please help me.'"

Personally, I tend to side more with the views of the Netherlands. If a person wishes to commit suicide, and there is reason to warrant the request, and several professionals conclude that euthanasia would be a logical decision for the case, the drugs should be administered by a doctor and fulfill the patient's request, rather than having them suffer through a life they do not wish to bare. Doctor assisted suicide should be a person's CHOICE. If a law were to pass legalizing euthanasia, it would only open up the option for a choice in the matter, not force anyone to die against their will. I do not agree with the catholics (sorry!) because there is more than one religion in the world, and to try and stop the law because of a personal belief shows no respect to those who do not agree. Religious ideas and government should be kept separate in any and all cases. I also do not agree with Allison Davis. I may not be disabled, but I certainly do not think that passing a law legalizing euthanasia would start a mass slaughter of those who are. The law being passed, as I said earlier, is about a person's right to die, if they choose to do so. This does not mean in any way they the disabled will be looked down upon, or will be forced to die. It just gives those who cannot stand to live their life any longer, a way out. However, I also do not agree with Chris Hill's personal views. I do not believe just anyone should be able to seek help from doctors to commit suicide. I accept Chris Hill's wish to die, and understand his feelings for doing so. But Chris Hill is not everyone. Much of the time a patient seems to ask for suicide because they want an easy way out. I feel euthanasia is only ok, if there is consent, and reason to warrant the request to die. If a person is visibly suffering from their condition, they should be able to commit suicide. However Chris Hill's "autonomy for all no matter the situation" idea is a bit too extreme for me, and fades too many boundaries on what is considered "terminal illness." So, I have come to the conclusion that if there is an extensive evaluation of a patient, they give consent, and it would end the patient's suffering, doctor assisted suicide is ok.

Once again, I'd like to personally thank you, Sister Mary Rose, for taking time out of your week to educate us on the catholic views of euthanasia, as well as take the time to read our blog postings. I know it must get old to hear the same ideas over and over again, but it is much appreciated. It was a pleasure having you, and I hope you enjoyed yourself. Take care!

Sincerely,
Daisy A.