Against Assisted Suicide

Last week, after a long and emotional floor debate, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that would legalize assisted suicide in the State. Today, the Senate committee considering the bill could vote to advance it to the full Senate.

This means that we Marylanders could be just a few steps away from living in a society that enables terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

What does the bill do?

According to the Maryland Catholic Conference, the bill “would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of a controlled dangerous substance, which they would then pick-up at their local pharmacy and ingest without medical supervision to end their life.”

The Conference goes on to argue that “This bill, in addition to having no regard for the worth and dignity of every human life, establishes suicide as a societal norm, places large quantities of Schedule II prescription drugs into our communities with no measures in place for take-back or disposal, and leaves those suffering from mental illness, persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and our elderly at risk of coercion and undue influence by family members or caregivers.”

Where might this lead?

Advocates of assisted suicide focus on a narrow and short-sighted solution to what is a worthy goal: relieving the suffering of terminally ill individuals. In pursuing their solution, they dismiss concerns about the grave and lasting damage it could do to our society in the long run.

Here’s where this bill might one day lead:

  • To a health insurance industry that has little patience for efforts aimed at extending the lives or improving the experiences of patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
  • To a medical culture that encourages terminally ill people to end their lives, just as it already encourages the parents of unborn children with illnesses or deformities to abort.
  • To a society that is bolder in its utilitarianism – valuing individuals not for their own sake, but according to what they can do for the rest of us.
  • To a culture that encourages ill and old people to end their lives, that views those who want to live on in their suffering as selfish – as takers of resources, as wanting to drag their families along with them in their suffering.
  • To the expansion of assisted suicide laws, enabling minors and those with mental illnesses, even depression, to end their lives. (Indeed, this has already come to pass in some European countries.)

What impact might it have on families?

My grandmother died in September.

She was 95, a fiercely independent and stubborn lady who lived on her own until the last two weeks of her life. She died of an infection that her body was too frail to fight, so thankfully, she did not suffer long.

But she did suffer. And our family watched, suffering with her.

Some forty hours before she died, I sat by my Mom-mom’s bed, surrounded by over a dozen family members, and I watched her breathe.

In and out, in and out, slowly, haltingly – she labored to breathe. I watched her dry lips, her closed eyes, her skin that seemed to stretch ever tighter over her fragile, precious bones. I watched each breath, wondering if it would be her last.

I watched each breath, wanting and not wanting it to be her last.

In the months since my grandmother’s death, I have felt regret and gratitude in almost equal measure. There is so much to unpack. How we lived, how she died. What went unsaid, what went undone. All the love that was poured out and spread around.

But in the wake of last week’s vote in the House of Delegates, I have found something new to be grateful for: that while my grandmother was dying and our family was dealing with her decline, we were in a place and time and situation where assisted suicide was not an option.

What a luxury. What a gift.

I am so grateful that we got to deal with my grandmother’s illness and death without wrangling over the question of whether she wanted to end her life, or whether loved ones wanted her to put a stop to her suffering, or whether doctors thought that the most prudent course. We were so lucky to not have those questions hanging over our heads.

Discussion around assisted suicide primarily focuses on the physical suffering of terminally ill individuals. But I fear that in reality, it will have a much broader impact on the emotional and spiritual suffering of entire families.

I fear that, if passed, this legislation will lead to suffering that won’t end with the death of the sick person. I fear that it will cause suffering that lives on in families, trickling down through generations.

If families can be divided by property disputes and ill-chosen words, imagine the damage that will result from disagreements over how and when a beloved family member should die.

Imagine the anguish of children who don’t want to see their mom end her own life. Or the anguish of a mother who wonders if it’s time to stop being a burden to her children. Or the anguish of a family in which some desperately want dad to hang on and others think it’s time for him to be done.

What can we control?

Besides that (worthy) goal of alleviating suffering, advocates of assisted suicide aim for another goal: control. They want terminally ill patients to be able to control their own end.

But there’s another element of control that must be considered when it comes to assisted suicide – control over the thing itself.

Supporters of the legislation will say that it includes sufficient safeguards, that the choice to end one’s life will belong to the patient alone – not her doctors, not her insurers, not her family.

But there’s only so much they can control.

They can’t control what kind of pressures patients will experience. They can’t distinguish between overt coercion and the low-grade kind that builds up over time.

They can’t control the shift of societal opinion towards death as duty. They can’t control how the medical and insurance industries will react, and even use, that shift to their own ends.

And they can’t control what kind of impact assisted suicide – even the option of assisted suicide – will have on families. If for no other reason than this, let’s encourage the Maryland Senate to set aside this legislation.

Let’s allow families dealing with the grave illness of a loved one to handle their situation without the burden of struggling with another, perhaps longer-lasting, kind of pain.

 

If you are a resident of Maryland who would like to register opposition to this legislation, please visit the website of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Against Assisted Suicide

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 15) / {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 2)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

— 1 —

I’ve got one complaint to get out of the way, and then I promise that the rest of this post will be kinder/gentler/sweeter. Probably somewhat mushy, but hopefully not altogether sappy. That’s the goal.

But first, the complaint: Between the morning sickness and a cold my three-year-old brought home last week, I’m feeling pretty awful at the moment. I keep telling myself that I shouldn’t be feeling so bad: “Buck up, Julie! You’ve got things to do, boys to care for! You’re almost done the first trimester anyway! Your hormones can’t be making you that sick anymore! And it’s just a silly cold! Get with it!” So I go forth and try to seize the day or something, and then I come home and collapse and I’m no good to anyone for 24 hours. Repeat.

Tuesday it was a board meeting/reception with the boys in tow. Thursday it was volunteering at my son’s preschool. Both times, I deluded myself into thinking it would be no big deal. Both times, I arrived back home overwhelmed, exhausted to the point of numbness, and pretty much unable to move.

The morning sickness would be bad enough, but this stupid cold/infection/whatever is pushing me over the edge: sneezing, blowing the heck out of my nose, sore throat, head congestion, and now this stabbing/burning/shocking pain all over the right side of my head. Woe is me.

Last week was a good week for the blog: Even through the morning sickness I was able to write four posts, that people liked. And people I don’t even know were stopping by to read my stuff. I should have capitalized on my temporary surge in numbers by writing several meaty posts this week. But given the fiery, electrical knives that were attacking the side of my head, the best I could muster most days was to lie on the sofa and plead with the boys to not wrestle on top of me. I’ll say it again: Woe is me.

— 2 —

Okay, I’m done now. I have enough perspective to know that (a) all of the above is temporary, (b) I could be feeling significantly better as soon as next week (I’m almost at 12 weeks! Woo-hoo!), and (c) my life is full of good things. The best things, like love and family and God’s blessings and security and friendship and hope and grubby little boy faces.

I think I might have had three days this week without any nausea – the first in over a month. So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! I’m hoping that I’ll fully turn the corner next week. Not only am I just plain ol’ ready to be done with it, but I have a few serious blog posts in my head that I’m itching to get started on. I also want to tackle (i.e. carefully read) the America piece on Pope Francis that everyone’s talking about. Maybe nausea/fatigue/burning head aren’t the best reasons to not have read it yet, but I have a feeling that I’ll need to have some clarity of mind in order to take it on. So c’mon, good health and decent energy levels! I know you’re out there! Come to Mama!

— 3 —

As you see in this post’s title, I’m kind of cheating this week. I’d started writing my {pretty, happy, funny, real} Wednesday evening, but quickly found that I just couldn’t do it anymore: sleep beckoned. And it beckoned again Thursday afternoon, when I’d hoped to have time to finish the post.

And then Thursday evening, when I began thinking about what I’d write for my 7 Quick Takes, I kept coming back to contentment. As in,
{phfr} contentment. (Okay, okay: contentment and that one complaint in #1.) That evening as I watched my little boys play so well together on the playground, I mulled all the little signs lately of how deeply they love each other. Yes, they fight and wrestle and get angry, but they also seem to be each other’s greatest delight.

20130919_185252

Witnessing my boys’ growing love for each other just wows me. I never imagined what a joy it could be. Talk about contentment.

So, enter {pretty, happy, funny, real} for Quick Takes 4 through 7:

— 4 {pretty} —

20130917_181425

20130917_181431

The boys and I were in Annapolis Tuesday evening for the aforementioned meeting and reception. We don’t get there too frequently these days, given what a hike it is for us, but each time we’re there, I’m struck with how pretty that place is. And how blessed we are to get to spend any time there at all.

— 5 {happy} —

20130919_183414

20130919_185237

20130919_182955

20130919_185325

I’m not sure that 2- and 3-year-olds are capable of experiencing elsewhere the unadulterated happiness they find on a playground.

— 6 {funny} —

20130917_181701

20130917_181356

We spent our time in Annapolis this week at the Charles Carroll House and Gardens, the Annapolis home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Fittingly, the boys were gifted with a pair of tricorn hats and Revolutionary boy dolls. They were so funny running around with their hats and dolls. Of course they’re too little to have any concept of American history and what those gifts represented. Rather, by their cries of “Aargh!” as they ran around, I realized the boys thought those hats made them pirates.

— 7 {real} —

20130913_162825

I have this dream of being a farmer, or at least a major gardener. But I (big time!) lack the knowledge base to get me there, and at this point in my life (that is, a chaser of small boys every time I’m outside), I don’t have much time to practice the little I do know. But I figured I could handle some tomato plants this summer, so I sweet-talked my hubby into planting six different and interesting varieties for me.

I did a decent job of tending them at first and I was overjoyed when they bore their first fruits. But then I was struck with a powerful, pregnancy-induced aversion to the things. I can hardly stand to look at the little beauties right now. Goodbye, dreams of tomatoes with fresh basil, fried tomatoes, BLT’s! Hello (because of both the aversion and the morning sickness), neglect and waste.

Which is why I now have a garden full of overgrown, collapsed tomato plants, full of fruit that will mostly go uneaten. (My husband has no great love for tomatoes and most of our local friends/family seem to have their own gardens.) Ah, well… maybe next year.

P1160303

To end with a bit more contentment, though, let me give you a peek of the view from one side of my garden and another of the view from behind it. I have great hopes for this spot.

P1160301

P1160300

Have a great weekend, all! Please be sure to stop by Conversion Diary’s 7 Quick Takes Friday and Like Mother, Like Daughter’s {pretty, happy, funny, real} to see how everybody else is wrapping up their week!

pretty happy funny real[1]