Dear Sister Mary Rose,

Thank you so much for coming into our Bio Ethics class to explain to us in more depth what the Catholic view on Euthanasia. When Otto told me that you were coming in I was very excited because I had heard so much about you from Jenny and Jocelyn Veyna, and I was finally going to meet you. I will say now that I do not agree with the Catholic ways, but I was extremely interested in why you and Otto believe what you believe and I applaud you for speaking to an audience in which your view was not a popular one.

I am going to check my understanding of the Catholic view now. The church believes that every life is sacred and worth saving at every stage of life from conception to last breath. Suicide is never permeable even if you have terminal illness. As stated by Jerome Hamer, a Catholic secretary, “Intentionally causing one’s death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan.” The illness is seen as your cross to bear like Jesus did before his execution. An example is that “Some Christians prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntary at least a part of their suffering and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the suffering of Christ crucified.” Also that God wishes us to have suffering and it is our job to overcome it. No one really wants to kill themselves they just need a hug, better medical care, and better family support. Hamer explains it thusly “The please of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love.” For euthanasia is “an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.”

The one part of the Catholic view that confuses me the most is the “extra ordinary” and “ordinary” measures. At the beginning of your visit I asked if a person who was in a car accident and is only alive because of a machine that breathes for them would that be playing God because she should have been dead on the scene if it wasn’t for the machine, and you replied yes because it was an extra ordinary measure. Yet later in the visit when some of my fellow classmates began to pester you on the subject you said that a breathing machine is no longer considered an extra ordinary measure leaving me more an a little confused. Hamer stated that “The means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.” I guess that the confusing part for me was how the term is not universal. Does an American’s extra ordinary measure definition change if they are on vacation in Africa even if they were raised with different extra ordinary measures available to them? I will have to ask Otto to clarify that one for me.

Another view that you would agree with is that of Alison Davis. Davis is a woman that was born with spina bifida and her “parents were encouraged to leave (her) in the hospital and ‘go home and have another’” but she is alive because her parents did take her home and took the chance that her quality of life would be a bearable one. She is now 28 years old with an honors degree in sociology, been married to an able-bodied man for eight years, and has traveled the world. She has dedicated her life to defending the lives of handicapped people from her own wheelchair. She believes that suicide is never right and devalues life. She goes as far to say that legislation of the right to die legislation is equal to what Hitler did to the Jews in Nazi Germany. She states that “This notion of ‘non-personhood’ denies the right of handicapped people to be recognized as equal human beings in a caring society.” She believes that “the medical profession could go a lot farther that it has to candem the constant undermining of the rights of handicapped people.” That statement is not necessarily true because in an article by Kin Murphy about how physician assisted suicide in states such as Oregon and Washington where it is legal is unavailable. She found that “It’s legal, but health providers’ moral qualm means it’s essentially unavailable.” She fails to see the fact that most doctors agree with her and will not go through with physician assisted suicide. She also fails to relies that not all handicapped people are as strong as she is for example Chris Hill.

Chris Hill was an extremely active and sexual man who traveled the world skydiving, swimming with dolphins, exploring volcanoes, and high risk exciting adventures of that sort. Little did he know that one of his favorite high risk activities would leave him in a wheelchair. A hang gliding accident left him “paralyzed from the chest down, more than three quarters dead. A talking head mounted on a bloody wheelchair” as he put it in his suicide not explaining why he took his own life. His reasons on top of losing his extremely active and sexual life included not being able to use the restroom, watching himself “become a hunchback with a bloated pot belly above withered legs with muscles as soft as marshmallows.” Also because he was unable to move he acquired bed sores, urinary tract infections and hemorrhoids that ended up with him in the hospital. His list of ailments was huge and when he started to los feeling in his arms left him with unbearable fear of losing what little he had left.
He was not alone during this time he had the love of a woman named Lee-Ann, but he “wept whenever (he) thought of (them) together. What future could (they) have together?” All of these factors lead to his final decision to kill himself. His view on suicide can be summed up by the last passage in his suicide note. “Suicide is not a crime and I have the right not to be handled or treated against me will, so I absolutely forbid anyone to resuscitate or interfere with me while I continue to live, unless it is to end my suffering. Anyone who disregards this notice will be committing a civil and criminal offence against me.” There are many others with the same opinion as Chris and many of them find themselves in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has no laws against active or passive euthanasia. Switzerland has a company called Dignitas that assists people to kill themselves. Also many Dutch hospitals such as the Reinier de Grauf Gasthuis have a team of doctors and nurses that practice active voluntary euthanasia. Those countries believe that helping someone end their life is a part of proper medical care. Pieter Admiraal, who is one of the members of the active voluntary euthanasia team, he regards euthanasia “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.” As we saw in the documentary “The Suicide Tourist” people travel from all over the world to Switzerland to Dignitas to get help to end their lives. Whether it be muscular dystrophy or paraplegic from a rugby accident. The people at Dignitas have helped hundreds of people commit suicide all of which decided themselves that life was no longer worth living and decided to go out on their own terms. The companies that help then “do not regard (euthanasia) as separate from the delivery of terminal care, but rather as the last dignified act of terminal care.” They do not see a slippery slope; they only see a way to help people die with honor and dignity. They make sure that the patient truly wants to end their life by talking to family members and friend of the patient along with being assessed by doctors and nurses that come together to form a panel that discuss the patient’s condition and will to live to decide to preform the active voluntary euthanasia. “Patients know that they can count on their 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.”

Out of all of the views that Mr. Geib has shown us I see myself as a mix between the Netherland, Chris Hill, and Jack Kevorkian. I personally believe that active euthanasia should be legal for all terminally ill patients. If your illness is going to kill you and your suffering through enough pain to want to kill yourself then you have the right to do so. I believe that quadriplegics should also have the right to commit suicide. They should be required to have more checks before committing suicide to make sure that they are not depressed and in a stale mindset to make the decision. Their quality of life has been reduced to a fraction of what it was before and some people would rather die than live in that state. If I was in the situation such as the on in “Million Dollar Baby” I think I would make the same decision that she did. That is why I support it because if I was in that bed I would probably want to kill myself too. It is harder for me to give the right to paraplegics because there are so many of them that go on to live fulfilling lives and once they are over the initial depression compete in the Para Olympics and motivate others to overcome their problems. I am not trying to say that one persons suffering is more or worse than another’s it’s just I would hate to see someone’s life end because they weren’t in the stable mindset to make the decision. That is why I like the way the Netherland hospitals went about their suicides. They has a panel that spoke with the patient, their family, their friends, doctors and nurses to make sure it was what the patient really wanted. As for the killing of the patient I think that Jack Kevorkian had the best idea with his “Merseytron” machine and the other ways he assisted suicides with the exception of Thomas Yoke. He crossed the line with Yoke. The doctor should never be the one to inject the patient. The patient has to do it themselves so tat no one but themselves is to blame for their death. Also it makes certain that it is what the patient wanted. It is one thing to say that you want to die; it is a completely different thing to pull the string that you know is going to kill you. It is true determination, longing and drive to pull that cord. It’s the difference between walking the walking and talking the talk. I think it is really sad that someone would want to take their own life because I believe that someone will always love you and everyday has the possibility to help someone else and make a difference. However as the government is concerned there is nothing in the law that should prevent you from taking your own life. If you are suffering enough you should be able to die with loved ones and or with the help of a doctor if that is what you want/need. I hope I never have to face that decision myself, friends, family, or any loved one, but I hope that I am able to put aside my selfish wants to let them go on their own terms.

Death is a very touchy subject because of the fact that no one knows what comes after death. It is a journey that none return from, leaving us wondering where they went and what it is like where ever they are. The majority of the population is afraid of death, most are so afraid that they do not want to discuss it and it is mostly those people who are so against euthanasia, understandably so. Not many people enjoy discussing what scares them most let alone vote for legislation that will make that thing legal. Personally I have to take a step back and think about what the person wants. It is not my place to influence the care of someone else because of my own personal opinion. If someone wants to “carry the cross” then power to them for being strong enough to see it to the end, but if someone wants to die on their terms I believe that their choice should be honored and respected also. Thank you again for coming into our class and sharing your views. I know that we do not agree on this topic, but I respect your opinion and very much so enjoyed listening to such an opposite opinion from my own.

Thank you again,