Dear Sister Mary Rose,

Firstly, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Zack Hermann, and I'd like to thank you so much for sharing your opinions and the Catholic Churches views on euthanasia to our class. I was raised as a Protestant Christian, and therefore I have been almost trained to have similar views to the Catholic Church. However, after growing and learning for myself, I have found that my personal views differ greatly. Although there are certain aspects of the euthanasia debate supported by the Catholic Church which I agree with, there are definitely those which I don't. But once again, my classmates and I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to help us understand your beliefs.

Through my very limited previous knowledge, and your presentation to my class, I believe I have gained at least a somewhat thorough awareness as to how the Catholic Church views euthanasia. Primarily, the belief is that all life is sacred, and there are very few, if any, situations in which this life should be purposely compromised. Any taking away of life, whether it be personally inflicted or caused by another, is essentially murder, a terrible sin. As stated in the Declaration on Euthanasia issued by the Vatican, "Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying." This being said, passive euthanasia is the one loophole which I can see. The act of letting God have his way with human beings, or nature taking its rightful course, is the one instance in which a human being would be allowed to die. This would involve avoiding "extraordinary means," or any life saving measures which wouldn't be considered "ordinary" such as ventilators or feeding tubes. So essentially, the only way a Catholic would be allowed to die, would be if they were in a permanent vegetative state and had their life support suspended. Assuming I have all the above information correct, I will say that the Catholic point of view is rather subjective. What is to say that in our day in age, with all our current technology, that feeding tubes and other forms of life support are in fact becoming the "ordinary." Unless there is a concrete "rulebook" depicting the circumstances under which medical procedures become extraordinary, there is no way that the Catholic Church can have an accurate and constant point of view. This all being said, it seems fairly obvious that in the majority of circumstances, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, or suicide in general, are against the Catholic belief, and I have to say, I undoubtedly disagree.

Similar to the Catholics' point of view, was that of Alison Davis, a woman whose opinion we discussed in class. Davis is wholeheartedly against euthanasia of those with disabilities. Having suffered with a severe case of spina bifida her whole life, she fears that allowing those with disabilities to end their lives, will in turn place a target on the backs of all disabled persons. "Who could say I have 'no worthwhile quality of life'? I am sure though that no doctor could have predicted when I was 28 days old that despite my physical problems I would lead such a full and happy life." Alison Davis would use the same logic that, though disabled, many people can still live enriching lives. Davis is married and has traveled the world even though her health is, "at best uncertain." She also believes that allowing for more widespread euthanasia among disabled people would increase the amount of premature babies being euthanized based on their life expectations. Although she makes a fair case, I believe she is blinded by her closeness to the issue, and doesn't fully understand that in all cases, the assisted suicides of disabled human beings are voluntary. It is completely their choice whether or not they decide to live, which I believe helps to discredit Davis' claims.

Opposite to Alison Davis' belief that disabled persons shouldn't be allowed to be euthanized, we read a letter written by a paraplegic Chris Hill. After living an extraordinarily fulfilling and adventurous life, Hill was severely injured in a hang gliding accident. With his previous lifestyle being ripped from under him, his will to live diminished, and he committed suicide. In his letter, he explained his reasons, and why euthanasia is a completely viable option for those with disabilities. "Its 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?" Similar to Hill, one of the more prominent cases in a disabled person requesting euthanasia is Ramon Sanpedro. Sanpedro suffered decades in a paralyzed shell of a body, unable to enjoy life, fighting for the right to die. After a 29 year battle with the courts, Sanpedro took matters into his own hands, and had several friends assist him with small pieces of suicide, so none of them could be convicted of assisting a suicide. This man lived 29 years, more than half his life, paralyzed from the neck down. I do not believe that any human should be forced to bear a life such as this.

Finally, we learned about the Netherlander's point of view on the delicate subject of euthanasia. In comparison to most other countries, the Netherlands is one of the few which accept physician assisted suicide. They believe that all humans should have the right to die, assuming they meet the right criteria. Dying with dignity is a liberty which gives the individual a chance to decide when "enough is enough." In fact, there are actually clinics which "tourists" will travel from across the world to visit, for the sole purpose of being allowed and assisted to end their own life. Dignitas is one such treatment center in which a team of specialists, comprised of doctors, psychiatrists and spiritual advisors make the final call in whether or not an individual is not only clinically terminal, but also in a healthy state of mind. Such practices lead to certainty in whether or not a certain euthanization is deemed ethical in the Dutch point of view. Pieter Admiraal, one of the doctors who administers the life ending injections believes that, "the duty entails that we listen closely to, and respect, the wishes of our patients. Suffering, loss of control, and physical decline are subjective experiences, and nobody but the patient themselves is in a position to decide when enough is enough." Admiraal practices active euthanasia, in which the doctor himself injects the life ending agents, whereas normally it is the patient who administers the drug. Although not a common routine, I agree with his actions, simply because there are certain patients who are either so ill or disabled that they are not physically able to commit suicide, and this allows them to leave the world in a peaceful dignified way. The Dutch point of view is one of the most advanced systems concerning assisted suicide, and one that I almost entirely agree with.
Before enrolling in Bioethics, I honestly didn't have much of an opinion on euthanasia, as to whether or not it should be allowed. However after learning multiple points of view from the Catholic Church, the Netherlands, and individuals such as Alison Davis and Chris Hill, I believe that in almost any case, the right to decide whether or not to continue living lies with the individual. Euthanasia or physician assisted suicide should be allowed in certain situations, in order to end the suffering of human beings afflicted with severe disabilities or illnesses.

The Catholic Church's position on euthanasia is that all life is sacred, and therefore should never be taken away based on a person's desires. Although I do believe that life is sacred, I also believe that there are points at which life becomes too much to bear. I do not agree with the Catholic belief that those suffering with terminal illnesses should be forced to endure their painful lives until the bitter end. Also, the mere fact that Catholics seem to force their opinion on the subject onto other individuals of different faiths is, I believe, wrong. Who is to say that an atheist should be made to live up to the Catholic way of life, when they obviously disagree with their teachings? The Catholic Church is a main voice in the euthanasia debate, and I believe that there should continue to be a separation of church and state in this situation, where the Catholic point of view isn't the main one. This being said, I do believe they are making certain steps in the right direction, by allowing passive euthanasia to continue.

Similar to the Catholic standpoint, Alison Davis is a disabled individual who believes that euthanasia of other disabled persons is morally wrong, and it lowers their standards of life. However I believe that the main problem with Davis' idea is that euthanasia or physician assisted suicide are completely and one-hundred-percent an individuals choice; There are no doctors recommending suicide to individuals simply based on their disabilities. Those suffering from disabilities often simply want a way out, and the ability to pass on with dignity, and I think that the restriction of this desire is outright cruel. Although I am not recommending that those suffering from disabilities should commit suicide, I do believe that it should be a choice.

Opposite to Alison Davis' attitude, Chris Hill is an advocate for disabled persons' ability to commit suicide. After enduring a horrendous hang gliding accident, Hill was plunged into a crippled life as a paraplegic. In instances such as this, I believe that if suicide is requested, it should be an option. For individuals who have lived such fulfilling lives, to be instantaneously severely handicapped, would be devastating and I don't think anyone should be required to tolerate such pain and heartache. This being said, I don't think that euthanasia should be administered to any human, regardless of medical and mental health. Situations such as intense depression I believe should not be viable circumstances for euthanasia. In this situation, death is a permanent solution for a possibly temporary problem. Although not every person should be given the right to die, those suffering from terminal illness and or life stunting disabilities should be given that opportunity.
The Dutch have an extremely liberal point of view on euthanasia, which entails allowing individuals to commit suicide, assuming they meet the criteria set forth by a team of doctors and mental health specialists. I strongly agree with how the Dutch handle the delicate subject of euthanasia. The right to die is one which shouldn't be compromised by opposing religious beliefs and other ethical dilemmas. Allowing for those with terminal illness or life altering disabilities to choose how they end their life is the right way to go in this situation. Personally, about two months ago, my grandfather passed away after suffering for months with a cancer of the bladder. Although I wasn't there to witness it, my uncle told me how my grandpa begged for mercy, to bring an end to his suffering by taking his whole stash of pain medication. My uncle didn't comply with his requests, seeing as it is illegal to assist in a suicide. However I can't even begin to imagine how my uncle must feel, after having to deny his father his final request, as he died the next day. If physician assisted suicide was more readily available in our society, situations such as this would happen far less often.

In ending, I believe there are certain situations in which euthanasia is a plausible choice, such as when an individual's life isn't worth living, or they are terminally ill. The Catholic Church would disagree, stating that all life is sacred, and there are no circumstances in which any human being should actively take another human's life. I would disagree stating that religion shouldn't play as big a part in the debate, as there are those individuals who aren't in agreement with the Catholic Church's teachings, and therefore shouldn't be subjected to it's ideas. In distinct opposition to this idea, the Dutch believe that each individual should have the right to decide as to when "enough is enough," which I agree with. Advocates for euthanasia for disabled persons such as Chris Hill and Ramon Sanpedro have the right idea, that in certain situations, where there is nowhere to go but down, death should be a choice that each individual should make. Opposing this, Alison Davis believes that the euthanizations of disabled people actually places a mark on their back. I disagree with this because it is first and foremost a choice that each person has to make, and there is nothing forcing them into it. All in all, I believe that for people suffering from terminal illness or debilitating disabilities, euthanasia or physician assisted suicide should be an acceptable option, and should be offered in a more widespread way.

Sincerely,
Zack