Dear Sister Mary Rose,


I would like to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude for taking the time out of your day to extensively explain the Catholic point of view on euthanasia to my classmates and I. My name is Eric and I am an atheist. As such, I, naturally, hold very different views from those that you do. However, this by no means signifies an intolerance to others' views. I thoroughly appreciate the deep effort you took to explain your viewpoint and believe I am all the better for hearing it. We have extensively reviewed the viewpoints of various organizations, including the Catholic, that of Alison Davis, that of Chris Hill, and those employed in the Netherlands. Through the understanding of the various views of the world on Euthanasia, I have come to the conclusion that Euthanasia is correct in nearly all cases to preserve personal autonomy, individual quality of life, and to relieve suffering. Although I don't belong to any of the beliefs described in the following paragraphs, as I am not Catholic and I don't live in the Netherlands, I will describe what I have understood to be of each belief.

The Catholic point of view is seemingly straightforward in that all life is precious. However, in this point of view there exists complicated rationale and thorough explanations. The Catholic point of view begins with the value of human life.They establish that not only is life something sacred that no one may dispose of at will; but they also see life as a gift of God's love for humanity and as something they must preserve and make fruitful in all cases. With statements like "No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God's love for that person, without violating a fundamental right, and therefore without committing a crime of the utmost gravity" and that suicide is "the violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity" they clearly establish that they believe it is god's will to continue all life. In the Vatican's declaration on Euthanasia, they clearly declare that "intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder" which establishes their official position on Euthanasia. The Catholic Church believes, as stated by the Vatican, that active Euthanasia is wrong in all cases.

Passive Euthanasia, however, muddies the water quite a bit. The Catholic church maintains that the "right to die" does not mean "the right to procure death either by one's own hand or by means of someone else, as one pleases, but rather the right to die peacefully with human and Christian dignity". The Vatican states that when death is imminent in spite of all the doctors' efforts, it is permissible to "refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life" which is basically saying it is acceptable to remove the feeding tube, or some other means of "passive euthanasia", when someone is in a permanent vegetative state. Therefore the Catholic Church believes that only the most basic means are acceptable in Euthanasia, such as those involved in passive Euthanasia. They believe this mainly because, as stated before, there is a fundamental value to every life but also because they believe that "The pleas of the gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthaniasia; in fact it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love."

Alison Davis was born with Spina Bifida, a rare, complicated disease that condemns all of its victims to being confined in a wheelchair and to an uncertain state of health with frequent hospital visits. When she was 28 days old, and consequently had yet to receive any operations to preserve her life, a doctor advised her parents to abandon her, and "go home and have another". However, her parents disagreed with the doctors. Her parents gave her a chance to live. Since then, Alison Davis has lived a fulfilling life, although scarred with the over 20 operations by age 28 to keep her alive; worse still, her health is always of concern and uncertain. Yet, Alison Davis perseveres. Alison Davis also touches on the idea that granting legality to Euthanasia would lead down a slippery slope as the Catholic church believes. Alison Davis thinks that it is preposterous that people label the handicapped as having no quality of life exclaiming, "Who could say I have 'no worthwhile quality of life'?" Alison Davis is now continuously fighting for the right to life of handicapped people and believes everyone should be given the right to life.

Chris Hill was an adventurer by anyone's standards. He went hang gliding, skiing, rode motorcycles, and the list goes on. From his own perspective, "In short, I once lived life to the max, always grateful that I had the opportunity to do just that". Then, Chris Hill was involved in a terrible hang gliding accident, from which he barely escaped with his life and was doomed to paralysis from the chest down. Having once lived a life of adventure, meaning, love, and lust, being paralyzed meant that "tomorrows were nothing but a grey void of bleak despair". From the constant troubles of his everyday life, to the horrible conditions that forced him to become hospitalized, Chris Hill was miserable with his life as "A talking head mounted on a bloody wheelchair". In his eyes, his life "was just a miserable existence, an awful parody of normalcy". After working harder than he ever had before, he "accepted death - embraced it eagerly, in fact, after so many months of the nightmare - without fear or regret" on February 10, 1993. He believed that because his life was miserable in his handicapped state, he should be allowed to take his own life. In the end, he wasn't imposing death or Euthanasia on any others, only seeking it as a relief from his own suffering.

The Netherlands is one of the few places where Euthanasia is legal. Although Active Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, they do not take as extreme a stance as you might think. Pieter Admiraal, a doctor of more than 50 years, practices medicine in the Netherlands and practices Active Euthanasia "unashamedly because [he] regard[s] it as sometimes morally right". In the Netherlands they do not simply grant Active Euthanasia to all those who seek it; "the final decision [can] not be made unilaterally by patient or doctor. It [has] to be agreed to by a team consisting of two doctors, a nurse, and one of the hospital's spiritual caregivers". Admiraal believes that doctors "have to primary duties: to ensure the well-being of our patients, and to respect their autonomy". As such Admiraal courageously advocates the right and legality of Active Euthanasia, although he believes it is not always due. In the Netherlands, Active Euthanasia is not a result of a lack of advanced pain control, as Admiraal specifically addresses. Admiraal adds that in the Netherlands, although they have advanced palliative care, it is not always enough and that "in some 5 per cent of cases pain cannot be controlled with even the most advanced techniques". The Netherlands' policy is that "Active voluntary euthanasia is but one more way of delivering humane medical care". The Netherlands have found it legal to practice Active Euthanasia in patients who are not only terminally ill but also patients who seek release from a medical condition that imposes unrelievable and unbearable suffering.

Many disabled and others against Euthanasia would think, as does the Catholic church, that extending the legality of Active Euthanasia to disabled as well as the terminally-ill creates a slippery slope ending in the persecution of the disabled not wishing for death. However, in the Netherlands, there is no slippery slope as Admiraal states. "A clear moral and legal boundary can be drawn around the notion of consent ... No patient -no matter how ill- will have his or her life cut short unless there is an explicit request". The notion of consent is the backbone of the legal framework in the Netherlands and they are observing there is no slippery slope to taking away people's rights.

When the question of Euthanasia arises, I have a fairly straightforward point of view. If consent is given, Euthanasia is justified in nearly all cases. The few exceptions to my belief however are the people struggling with depression. In all cases of people with newfound paraplegia, or quadriplegia, they should have the option to be given doctor assisted suicide or Active Euthanasia. As such, I deeply sympathize with Ramon Sanpedro and am glad he was able to eventually reach the desired outcome of his death. Although I strongly disagree with the method used in the movie, "Million Dollar Baby", I completely agree with the outcome achieved in that we must respect the personal autonomy of people when they become greatly injured.

I believe that the Netherlands' policy is wise and, all in all, correct. I believe that every patient should be in his/her right mind, informed, and given the choice of Euthanasia. I also believe that a panel of doctors is the most effective and unbiased way of administering Euthanasia. Therefore, I disagree with the methods employed by Dr. Jack Kevorkian. However, because of the unwillingness of anyone else to aid him, I believe Dr. Kevorkian was justified in his actions. I further agree with the fact that Dr. Kevorkian turned down most of his patients.

Whenever I come upon the thought of Terry Schiavo and others in permanent vegetative states, I believe that, if no advanced directive is written, the choice of "pulling the plug" or removing the feeding tube should be up to the individuals closest to the victim based on what they think the patient would have wanted.

The most difficult situations for myself to reach an opinion on are those with long-term clinical depression and those who are born with a terrible disease such as Alison Davis. The cases of depression are also deeply confusing in my own mind. At times I believe that, if they have received therapy and medication and they still experience depression, why shouldn't they see relief from suffering just like the terminally ill? Then my mind counters with: who is to say that their depression won't turn around tomorrow? At this point I honestly reach an impasse and can't think further. In the case of Alison Davis, I strongly believe that she has the right to live and other babies in her situation should be given the same. However, the complication for myself arises when I consider whether they should receive the choice when they are of a fully developed mind. Maybe they have no happiness in life and why can't they exercise their freedom like other handicapped. But in a way, isn't the lack of happiness they have when they have had their condition since birth similar to depression?

In the end, I agree with Active Euthanasia and am extremely glad that Washington, Oregon, and Montana have legalized Physician Aid in Dying. I thoroughly appreciate you spending your time to enlighten our class on the belief of the Catholic church, although I obviously disagree with it.

Sincerely,

Eric