Dear Sister Mary Rose,
First of all, and I'm sure I speak on behalf of my entire class, but I would like to sincerely thank you for taking your time to come talk with us. I'm sure it wasn't exactly how you would have like to spend your Friday afternoon, being intensely questioned by people who don't exactly entertain your views, but I know we all appreciated the clarification on topics and your offering up of part of your time. While I don't necessarily agree with all of your viewpoints, being a Christian (Presbyterian specifically), many rang true with me.

The Catholic position, so far as what I understand, is very firm and "black-and-white", so to speak, condemning any form of Euthanasia whatsoever. As Franjo Card. Seper, a Prefect for the Catholic Church, wrote in the "Declaration on Euthanasia", "Intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder," because it is considered "a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan." While I agree that suicide is wrong, and a sin against our Creator, I do feel it's necessary to emphasize that not even Jesus knows the Father's whole plan. "A rejection of God's... loving plan" borders assuming that the author, or the Catholic Church as a whole, knows what God's plan is. For the most part, the only real concrete highlights of what His plan actually is are found in John 3:16 and various instances where it's noted that Christ is indeed coming back to redeem all of us. Oddly enough, even Jesus doesn't know when that time will be, further emphasizing my point. Later on in the writing, it is stated that "the pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death... [are] almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love." First and foremost, may I stress as clearly as possible, who are we to make such a judgment on what a suffering victim wants? We have no more ability (God's intervention aside) than the next person to peer into their mind and ascertain their true desires, so saying such a thing paints the Church in a very elitist or "superior" light. Secondly, what "help" are they pleading for? Granted, some may want a higher dose of Morphine, and others, a loved one by their side, but what about those who define "help" for them as ending their suffering, permanently? What about the ones for whom pain medication, even in the highest dosage, doesn't alleviate the entirety of their distress, and for whom the end is still too far off? The moral fibers of our being would wrench us to help lead them to their final sleep. May I make a note about that, as well? I personally believe emotions were bestowed upon us by God, as they're essentially universal and, in their purest form, untainted by sin. Love, joy, peace, happiness, sadness, anger (yes, even Jesus was mad, yet it was justified and thus not sinful), empathy, etc... All of those are innate to each and every one of us, and we can assume that just actions based off of the purest forms of those emotions are condoned by God. The gut wrenching feeling you get when you see a homeless child leads you to give aid them in one way or another. This is something God specifically called us to do. In the same breath, I don't know of any Catholics or Christians in general who oppose putting down a sick, suffering dog or cat. It's called "mercy", something which we attribute to God in more worship songs than I can count. Yet that animal is God's creation, the same as you and me, and on the flipside, I don't know of any Catholics or Christians in general who support killing a dog or cat just for the sake of killing it. Murder is murder, be it of a man or animal. Yes, there could be arguments that Christians kill deer and other animals for food all of the time - may I suggest that if cannibalism was widespread and a social norm, I doubt we'd have much of an issue with that killing too. But it's not, and no one approves of putting a bullet between your pet's eyes simply because they went to the bathroom on your carpet. So yes, back to my point, murder is universal. Yet Christians and atheists alike are generally supportive of Euthanasia when it comes to God's creatures. Why not with humans? If the emotional tug is the same as with a suffering animal, and the intent is merciful, would that not theoretically be condoned by God? But that's just me playing devil's advocate. How I really see it:

God specifically states that we are his temple and are not to desecrate it. Unlike animals, we are reborn in Christ and His Spirit lives in us, something I'm pretty sure the animals can't say because they didn't screw up in the first place like we did. While we don't know His full plan, God did give us the Ten Commandments, instructions on how to live and interact with God and our fellow man. There is not one commandment among those 10 which details what to do with a sick and dying animal. In fact, God required it of the Israelites to sacrifice innocent lambs for their own sins. So there is a difference between putting a dying animal out of it's misery and doing the same of a person. However, I believe that humans have free will as a gift of God, and legally speaking/religiously speaking, provided the law condones it, we have no right to interfere if they choose to enact upon that gift.

Perhaps more-so in the Catholic camp is Alison Davis, a woman with spinal bifida who shares a similar viewpoint with the Church, though without the religious aspect of it. Her main argument centers on an issue dealing with a bill drafted by a Mr. and Mrs. Brahams giving doctors the ability to withhold treatment from newborn handicapped babies. Before I detail the entirety of her case, I would just like to say upfront that I am wholeheartedly against such a concept. Anyways, Mrs. Davis was born with the disability and doctors repeatedly recommended that she be allowed to die at such an infant stage. Her parents, however, felt otherwise and 20+ surgeries later, she is married and has a degree in sociology. Granted, she is still handicapped and is confined to a wheelchair, but she's made the most out of her situation, traveling through Europe, the Soviet Union, and the US. She maintains two stances in an article about her, one dealing with the specific case of the bill permitting doctors to effectively let disabled babies die, and the other taking a hard stance on euthanasia. In reference to the former, given her authority in the area, she firmly believes that no doctor should have the authority to decide such a matter. In her opinion, she was lucky to have been "given the chance to defy the odds and live, which is now being denied to handicapped newborns." But her displeasure with the topic doesn't end there. She later describes her concerns about where the line of "ending a life that will have 'no worthwhile quality of life'" is actually drawn. Describing the window in which the decisions about a baby's life or death could be made, she states, "There is nothing magical about the age of 28 days after all. It is simply the currently accepted boundary of 'non-personhood' for babies with congenital defects." Her worry centers around the idea of "non-personhood". She feels that such a slippery slope exists underneath that concept that it could extend to a Hitler-esk style execution of all handicaps of any age "who are too ill to defend their right to life by protesting that they are in fact happy". Personally, I see her point, but I do not, myself, see much of a slippery slope provided restrictions are put in place. Of course, if a free reign to perform euthanasias was given to doctors, I could understand the worry, but I have enough faith in our society to believe that something like that won't happen.

On the flipside of Mrs. Davis is Mr. Chris Hill. To preface his story, I should mention that it was told to us through a suicide note written by himself, so if my views aren't as "forward" as they have been, it's more-so out of respect than anything else. Anyhow, his background is as follows: He was an adventurous guy, to say the least, as his main enjoyments in live were nature, challenges, and sex. As I quote, "swimming with a wild dolphin in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas, riding across the desert sands around the Egyptian pyramids..." were a few of his travel adventures with his family. Later on, he embarked on fantastical activities such as having "skied waist-deep powder snow in untracked Coloradon glades; soared thermals to 8000 feet in a hang-glider... watched the morning sun ignite Himalayan peaks in a blaze of incandescent glory; smoked hashish with a leper in an ancient Hindu temple;" etc. In relation to our day-to-day monotony, he was living the good life. Referencing my earlier statement of one of his main enjoyments being "sex", he was certainly more promiscuous than most of us, enjoying "exotic erotica with perhaps more than a hundred women of many different nationalities in places that ranged from the bedroom to a crowded ship's deck on the Aegean Sea, fields, rivers, trees, beaches, cars and motorcycles." I bring this up only because it was such an important part of his life. Sadly, during one of his exciting trips, he had an awful hang-gliding accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The rest of his note details why he decided to commit suicide, mainly centering around the concept of a loss of dignity. I understand his frustration and upset in that area; not being able to provide monetarily, physically, or sexually for his wife; being unable to even regulate primitive bodily functions below the waistline; and even knowing that the achievements and physical adventures his loved ones were able to engage in were forever restricted to him. But despite all of that, he was not terminal, and unlike Alison Davis, he was able to live a perfectly normal life for the majority of his youth and early adulthood. For whatever reason, though, he was unable to move on from his condition, and determined that death was his only way out. One statement he makes, "It's a challenge, many of you said. Bullshit. My life was just a miserable existence, an awful parody of normalcy. What's a challenge without some reward to make it worthwhile?" I would like to disagree with. The challenge is learning to refocus your perception in such a time, and the reward is the peace that comes with doing so. Because it will, indeed, come if given the chance. Chris Hill, however, decided that he preferred an alternative solution, and on his fifth try, he got it.

On the more "liberal" end of the spectrum stands the Netherlands and our very own, Dr. Kevorkian. Pieter Admiraal, a member of a Dutch "Terminal Care Team" put it very bluntly: "To fail to practice voluntary euthanasia under some circumstances is to fail the patient." Unlike with Chris Hill, the case centers not around the individual's autonomy, but the ability of an outside person to enact the measures required to end a patient's life. This poses an interesting conundrum as it pertains to the Catholic point of view. "Desecrating the temple", or personally destroying it on your part is sinful and obviously not condoned by God. However, if it is not the same person asking for the end to their suffering as administering it, which party would be blamed for such destruction? Additionally, the body being a temple also poses a few problems, given that (obviously) not everyone gives their life over to Christ. Either there's a bunch of empty temples where the individual sits enthroned in opposition to God, or there's just a bunch of people who have yet to have their "temple" constructed via the entering of God into their life. If it is the latter, then for those unbelievers, wouldn't it come across as simply pushing the "Catholic agenda" upon them? As Carla, an ironically Catholic patient at the Dutch hospital, put it before she died by active euthanasia, "God could not have wanted this." We are called to "carry our cross", and for Jesus, this was symbolic of the world's persecution and hatred towards him even to the point of death. It is one thing to attribute that command to enduring persecution in our own lives because we are in this world, not of it, but did God really mean to endure all suffering, regardless of the origin or intent? If God does condone the "putting down" of suffering animals, and if their reason for suffering is independent of the fact that they're God's creatures, then why does the same thought process not carry over to humans? So far as the Hippocratic Oath goes, doctors are called to act in the best interest of the patient. What if the best interest of the patient would dictate that their suffering be forever relieved? Provided such actions are legal, would it not be the doctor's responsibility to exhaust all options and, if no other solution was bearable, then to do their patient a final act of mercy (given the patient's consent, of course)? Where do we draw the line so far as our own spiritual agenda goes? It's a tricky matter, to say the least.

I'm sure you are quite familiar with Dr. Jack Kevorkian. "Dr. Death", as he was known, he aided patients in their suicide (assisted suicide) in the shadowy backdrop of his van with his famed "Mercitron". Unlike with the Netherlands, except for one case, his final one, upon which he hung (so to speak), he never partook in active euthanasia. However, regardless of that, I believe Dr. Kevorkian would agree with Mr. Admiraal's statement, "As doctors we have two primary duties: to ensure the well-being of our patients, and to respect their autonomy." This is their interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath, and for Kevorkian, that meant videotaping his discussions with the patient and making as clear as possible what they wanted. He was not a serial killer, despite some of the public's opinion, but rather truly wanted what was best for his patients, especially when they could not be granted the same wish elsewhere.

In general, I spiritually am not in favor of suicide, in basically any circumstance. Morally, however, I do struggle with the very concept of morality and what, in the case of euthanasia, it would dictate us to do. Morality is a gift of God - it's the ingrained standard by which we ought to live - but why then do mercy and God's law contradict? If it is playing God to end a life, then aren't we playing God every day when we inadvertently kill little creatures while walking, or in the case I've used before, put down a sick and dying animal? Yes, we are different than a dog, per se, but how much different in terms of right and wrong? We have the knowledge of good and evil to be sure, something animals can't exactly say the same of, but that fruit didn't rewrite God's "code of living" for us. It just showed us how not to live. Anyhow, I could go on, but I think I'm just confusing myself while writing this. Again, I would like to thank you so very much for coming and talking with us, and I know we all appreciate it. I hope that your ministry touches many, many lives, and brings countless into the kingdom!

-Joe V.