Dear Sister Mary Rose,

I for one am Catholic. I go to church every Sunday, yet I was never sure what my church stood for on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and in this case euthanasia. I was baptized, did my first communion, and confirmation, yet I vaguely remember my parents and church group discussions mentioning abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia. We mostly talked about how to be a good Christian. So basically, my opinion on such controversial topics was never really influenced by Catholicism. I am glad you came to talk about euthanasia from the Catholic Church point of view, although, my own opinion strays from the teachings of the church.

Catholics are against euthanasia, or mercy killing. They believe that everyone has the duty to live their life according to God’s plans but euthanasia dismisses this idea because such an action is considered a rejection of God’s plans, “For 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.”. There is no excuse or case that will render this void; an “easy death” is always a wrong death. According to the Catholic Church, in cases of extreme pain and disease where the individual is reduced or completely absent, a cry to end their lives means a plea for help and love. Because physical suffering affects psychological makeup, a suffering individual is not thinking clearly and at the moment relieving the pain or disease at any cost is their first priority. So it is the patient’s family and doctor’s duty to provide medical care and love to reduce this person’s agony and remove death as an option.

There is a special thing about suffering, especially during the last moments of life, according to the Catholic Church. It “has a special place in God’s saving plan” because that moment of pain allows one to share Christ’s passion and sacrifice. Yet, the Church has no problem with the use of painkillers. “It is also permissible to make do with the normal means that medicine can offer.” If there is medicine, it can be used if the patient wishes. But if the patient refuses these means (painkillers), they have the right only because it is considered an acceptance of the human condition, “such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide”. In the case of an inevitable death, the Catholic Church states that “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”. Catholics believe that life is a gift from God and death is unavoidable; when the hour of death comes we should be able to accept it "with full responsibility and dignity". However the death may come, either painful or painless, it may be due to the relationship between God and the individual, or that person's spiritual preparation for eternal life.

Disability rights activist, Alison Davis, was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and uses a wheel chair full time and in addition has emphysema, a breathing problem that makes Alison susceptible to chest infections, arthritis, lordosis and kyphoscoliosis yet she is against euthanasia. About 20 years ago, all the pain she had to go through made her feel like she wanted to die. Her desire became a settled wish which lasted for about ten years. The first five years of those ten years, Alison attempted suicide multiple times. “Some of the attempts, however, were serious and I tried various methods: large overdoses of various drugs and cutting my wrists seriously. I was determined to succeed then”. It took Alison’s friends many years to persuade her that her life had meaning. Her trips to India in 1995 and meeting disabled children really helped turned her life around; after the trip Alison decided she wanted to live, it was the first time she had thought that for over ten years. “Had euthanasia or ‘assisted suicide’ been legal I would have missed the best years of my life. And no one would ever have known that the future held such good times”. Just like the Catholic point of view, she believes that a disease or extreme suffering does not make euthanasia acceptable.

On the other hand, Chris Hill was a quadriplegic and suicide or attempting suicide was seemingly impossible. Hill loved to travel; he had been to over a dozen countries “embracing everything from some of the world’s most spectacular wilderness areas to its greatest cities and vast slums containing millions of impoverished souls”. After a motorcycle accident, Hills became paralyzed from the chest down. Hill was no longer able to perform simple everyday tasks like getting dressed, showering and going to the bathroom. “All my many pleasures had been stripped from me and replaced by a hellish living nightmare”. He didn't want to continue living his life, he considered it a “miserable existence” and it was. He had tried to rebuild his life, but he found no purpose. Death was a release and through voluntary euthanasia, Hill was able to end his misery. He lived a humiliating, degrading and intensely painful life….why should anyone be forced to suffer like this?

Netherlands states no one should be forced to suffer such unbearable illness, which is why euthanasia is an option. Euthanasia in Netherlands is regulated by the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act” which declares that euthanasia and assisted physician suicide is acceptable (in accordance of criteria of due care, of course). If a patient wishes to die, they still have to meet a certain criteria or a specific circumstance (pain, disease) in order to allow euthanasia in Netherlands. Netherlands will not allow a walk-in-death; the patient still has to be closely evaluated.

In my opinion, I think suicide is horrible. The thought of ending your life, when our primary instinct is to live and survive, gives me goosebumps. But when pain drives someone to turn to death, that says something. As human beings, we fear the unknown. We rather open the door labeled "Monster on the other side" than a door labeled with nothing at all. But when suddenly "the known" becomes pain, burdensome, sorrow... one is driven to desperation and for the first time reality is scarier than the unknown: death becomes a relief. So those rationally aware people who choose death over life must be feeling great agony, and I believe that no one has the right to oppose their decision because only the person feeling the pain knows what they themselves are going through. How can someone fully aware and capable of comprehending their surroundings decide to die? It is not an "easy" death, as many may call it. It's a hard death. Accepting death, just think about it. These people have considered every exit, taken so many painkillers, attempted to move on, yet in the end their living circumstance has made death a relief. So I'd like euthanasia not to happen, I'd like to think that there is a lot more we can do for someone in such cases, but what more is there to do when there is a terminally ill patient living off a feeding tube? Is love and care really enough? You say euthanasia will lead to bigger problems, due to doctors playing God and the "extraordinary" means involved in taking a life away. But a doctor is already playing God and using extraordinary means when he performs surgery, gives painkillers, or resuscitates a patient. Euthanasia won't lead to problems, the prolongation of life will. Because doctors extended Chris Hill's life through feeding tubes, and expelling his bodily fluids, Chris was forced to live and adapt to a life he was never meant to live. His life should have ended in the motorcycle accident. The prolongation of life has led to the issues of euthanasia which we face today. Sure, as a Catholic I believe that suffering really is what humbles a human being and what gives one more of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet, when an individual's suffering is due to medications and because a doctor has a stuck a breathing tube down their throat, this is no longer suffering resulting from God's plan; their suffering is now something extra given by humans, that they were never meant to put up with. Yes I'm against suicide, but I'm also against the prolongation of life from a suffering human being. I hope this made somewhat sense, and I hope this doesn't make me any less Catholic. Thank you so much for coming and taking time out of your day to come talk to us, I definitely enjoyed listening to your perspective!


Lindaluz Carbajal