21 July 2009

The Right to a Good Death?

21 JULY 2009. Recently I have been reading news stories about individuals who have traveled from the United Kingdom to Switzerland to end their lives.

Sir Edward Downes and, his wife, Lady Downes, have recently received a lot of media attention for their joint assisted suicide on July 10, 2009. Apparently Lady Downes (74) was terminally ill and Sir Edward Downes (85) was suffering from a loss of hearing and sight. So, they made the decision to end their lives together in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, or at least permitted to take place.

As a part of the public debate of this topic in England, Archibishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, in an article published in The Telegraph last week, reminds us that: "dying is the most important step a person takes." "It is a step towards the ultimate fulfillment of our innate spiritual nature," Archbishop Nicols explains, "our capacity to know God, to know the fullness of the mystery of all things."

Very true. Very true indeed. Death is not a mere physiological step that simply ends life, ends suffering, and ends our consciousness. Death is the final step of this life--based upon the patchwork of our actions, thoughts, deeds, failures, and omissions, as the prayer says, "what we have done and what we have failed to do"--that brings us into the presence of the true and living God. To deny this is to deny truth itself, to deny the reality of God and of love in our world. To deny this is to render everything and everyone in our lives to be nothing more than given to us by chance of biology and physics for our own, selfish needs and pleasures.

A good death is taking the faith filled step towards God at the end of our mortal lives in accordance with God's commands, given to us by the Church. Taking control of the timing of our own death is not a good death--it is selfishness. And, outwardly at least, it is the rejection of God and of His love.

How truly sad that the Western world appears to be taking a societal, devolutionary step towards granting each person, under the rubric of a perversion of law, total control over his or her own life, to the point of being able to determine when life ends--out of convenience, self concern, and self control.

Where is God left in that calculus? No where.

There is an effort underway to systematically eliminate God from our lives by individuals, groups, movements, who find truth, love itself, to be inconvenient or imposing.

Please pray for these people, and pray for our society. Pray too for those who have taken their own lives, that God, who only in His majesty can truly know anyone's heart, will have mercy on their souls.


God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,

Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,

their lives change but do not end.

I pray in hope for my family,

relatives and friends,

and for all the dead known to You alone.

I pray especially,

for those souls most in need of prayer.

In company with Christ,

Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.

Unite us together again in one family,

to sing Your praise forever and ever.


IMAGE: Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery retrieved from Willard Library, Battle Creek, Michigan

1 comment:

  1. In my experience, one of the great falacies surrounding assisted suicide and this "death with dignity" cry is the false idea that most people with chronic disease spend the last times and die in agony. This simply is not true. If one is using our health care, and their providers are not completely incompetent - pain can be very well managed even in the worst of diseases. There is no reason to claim that death is a better option than pain control unless your goal is a subterfuge away from what is best for the patient, or just to get them out of the way so they no longer bother us with thier needs. In my many years as a health care provider, there is no pain that cannot be controlled with adequate medication. Those who say otherwise are lying.