- Suicide is a choice but it is almost always an irrational choice. It unilaterally breaks relationships and in that respect it is sinful, although I would not say it is unforgivable. Some say it is simply cowardly and selfish. That's a far too easy judgment.
- What physician assisted suicide, or, I suppose, any suicide in the face of terminal illness, raises is the possibility that it is a completely rational decision. I think in most cases that is probably correct. Certainly as a priest I have been supportive when individuals have chosen not to undergo treatment to prolong their life, or to end treatment that had begun. I suppose one might call that "suicide," and to a degree it is, yet the choice usually involves living with the illness until the illness itself causes death.
- I would defend a person's right to choose death rationally, just as I defend a woman's right to choose to end a pregnancy. But only in rare circumstances would I commend such a decision, certainly not without careful consideration of the other options.
- I have walked with many people from the discovery of terminal illness until death. Most of the time that involves some level of suffering, sometimes great suffering, although the greatest suffering I have seen over the years has almost been entirely by those whose family's choose the "whatever it takes to keep father alive" path.
- Although I do not believe that suffering in and of itself is redemptive, I do believe that life is redemptive and suffering is something all of us must do as a part of life. I have seen suffering and wholeness/holiness walk side by side to the end of life. I have seen the one who is suffering and their families and/or friends, be heroic in the giving of courage to one another.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Physician Assisted Suicide
The death of the young woman in Oregon (I refuse to use her name--the fact that this was played out in the media on such a personal level is unfortunate) has many of us in a quandary, yours truly included. When I lay out the things I think I believe they leave me in a very muddled place.
I think we do not talk about death enough, nor do we talk about the relative control we have over our lives, never total, or even near to it. Control is a high cultural value; it is also, mostly, an illusion. This is the part of assisted suicide, "rational" suicide, with which I struggle. Is it the final touches on the idol of control based on the false notion that we should never have to suffer?
I think I mean that to be a rhetorical question. As I said, I am in a very muddled place about this new reality. The only thing I am absolutely sure of is that we need to have conversations about all of these questions in our religious communities, in our families, and among our friends.