Home' Aurora : Aurora March 2012 Contents 14
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
FOR ME, DISCUSSING euthanasia is
both easy and difficult.
It is easy because I have multiple
sclerosis. I understand the issues raised
by the advocates of euthanasia.
It is difficult because I am forced to face
my own reality.
I understand that someone suffering a
terminal illness will arrive at a point when
they will say, "Enough is enough! No more
pain, no more indignity, it is time to die.
Will someone please help me?"
I reject euthanasia just as I reject suicide.
Why? Because my deep Catholic faith is
embedded in life, not death.
And most importantly, because I have
an innate sense of wanting to survive.
Whenever my life was at its worst or
darkest, I have believed that I would
survive. I hope.
The advocates of euthanasia don't
believe in survival.
In 2010-2011 the Voluntary Euthanasia
Legislation Bill was presented and
debated in the Federal and most state
and territory governments. It is more than
likely that the euthanasia debate will
continue in 2012.
The Bill recognised an individual's right
to die with dignity at a time of his or her
choosing and with the assistance of
medically qualified persons.
But what does dying with dignity
I agree with Ruth Limkin, pastor,
journalist and winner of the Margaret
Dooley Young Writers Award 2008, who
wrote in her winning essay, "Living
with Dignity", that "the redefining of
dignity, and the concept that some of
the processes of dying are inherently
undignified, has, in effect, passed
judgement, not upon the death of some,
but upon the life of many. The value
judgements behind 'dying with dignity'
are actually highly offensive to those
with physical or mental disabilities,
and who have to live each day with the
symptoms that euthanasia advocates
Limkin also questions one's ability to
choose the time of one's death. She
explains, "The decision to end your life is
rarely made apart from factors that place
immense pressure on the individual...an
often unspoken, yet powerful, influence
in decisions relating to euthanasia is
fear. Whether it is fear of pain, fear of
losing physical or mental control, or fear
of being a 'burden' to family, this fear is
powerfully persuasive. And fear makes
Fear of pain and fear of becoming a
burden are very real for me. But I am
assured that pain relief is available and
those close to me insist that I am not a
burden, that I am not a waste of space
and that I am still me.
The Catholic Church's position on
euthanasia is in strong contrast to the
The crux of the Church's opposition to
euthanasia is that the 'good' of the
sanctity of human life - that life which
God has bestowed on each one of us -
can never be sacrificed for the sake of
the 'good' of self determination (Catholic
Declaration on Euthanasia, 1980).
Using Catholic teaching, scripture
and tradition, the Church argues
The decision to request that one's
life be ended by means of active
intervention by another person rests on
a misconception that a human life cannot
be worth living.
Although advances in medical technology
allow others to assist people to end their
lives, relatively painlessly, this does not
make that judgement morally right. On
the contrary, it is a clear violation of a
principle which all civilized societies have
recognised and defended throughout
From the point of view of Christian
teaching, euthanasia contravenes God's
commandment that "Thou shalt not kill."
The Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry
of healing leave us in no doubt that he
respected human life when many of
his generation did not. One only needs
to recall his healing of the ten lepers
and of the blind man by the Pool of
Siloam, whom others had bypassed for
Moreover, Christians have been at the
forefront of caring for the sick and dying
for centuries. Inspiring that service has
been a reverence for human life and a
love for the God who has created that life
and who has sovereignty over it.
The Catholic Church is also clear that one
can forego so-called medical procedures
which no longer correspond to the real
situation of the patient. When death is
imminent, one can in conscience refuse
forms of treatment that would only
secure a burdensome prolongation of life
(Evangelium Vitae n 65).
The Catholic Church is incontrovertibly
committed to upholding the sanctity of
I agree with Ruth Limkin that money
spent on euthanasia campaigns would
be better spent on "medical funding and
training for effective pain management
and palliative care....[this] is essential if
society wishes to offer a comprehensive
and compassionate response to
suffering. However, Australia also needs
courageous voices that advocate, truly,
for the terminally ill. Often the test of
courage is not to stay silent but to speak."
I make no judgement on those who
choose euthanasia. While I might have a
sense of what they are going through, I
can't really know what they are enduring.
For my part, I choose to live, with the
love and support of family and friends,
specialist care and the knowledge that
pain relief is readily available.
While waiting I hope to make some
contribution to the world and the lives of
people around me.
To read the Catholic Church's
Declaration on Euthanasia, please
n, writer and former editor of Dialogue journal, Sr Beverly Zimmerman, is living the most challenging
off herr lliffe
e. Here she reflects on the oft-debated issue of euthanasia.
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