Euthanasia – Why or Why Not?

8 Oct

A year ago this month one of my friends died.  She was twenty-four years old.  She died a natural death, surrounded by her family, after a life-long battle with cystic fibrosis and diabetes.  My friend was beautiful, with stunning blue eyes, and dark brown hair. When we were younger, we would spend hours of play time together.  Our families have been friends ever since we were toddlers.  We’ve spent countless hours together.  My family and their family have gone camping together, have had bonfires, been at each other’s graduation parties and weddings, and just enjoy hanging out and spending time together.

My friend, all through her life, suffered from her health condition.  During the last couple years of her life, her liver was failing.  Her health was in bad shape.  Every year for as long as I can remember she would get very ill, requiring hospitalization.  You never would have guessed that she was sick from her outlook on life.  Through it all, she stared her health condition in the face and said, “I accept.”

Was her life good?  Yes.  Was her life valuable?  No doubt it was.  Was she in a lot of pain?  You better believe it.  Did her health conditions make her “less qualified to live”?  Never.  She lived life passionately.  She lived life to the full.

And when she passed away, it was a natural death, not one expedited by human doings.  She knew that her time was coming and she accepted it with peace.  She died a natural death with courage, dignity and self-respect.

You may have heard on the news about a young woman, twenty-nine years old, who was recently (this month) diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.  This diagnosis is utterly devastating, as I can only imagine – I cannot imagine receiving the diagnosis that she has received.  In this news article, this particular young woman mentions her desire to “die with dignity.”  It goes on to explain that she and her husband have moved to Oregon, where she is planning to use the DWDA (Death With Dignity Act).

This act was mobilized in 1997 to allow people with terminal illness, to end their life in a “dignified way.”  This law “allows terminally ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.”

The claim has been made that the ability to use the DWDA is not suicide but rather, that it is a “dignified” way to “exit.”  Well if it’s lethal and it’s self-administered, that in fact is suicide.  With all due respect, since when has self-injection of legal substances been dignified?  I’m curious.  How has the value of life been so degraded, so mis-interpreted, that we have come to this?  This form of dying is anything but dignified.

Have we become apathetic?  Please help me wrap my head around how this way of dying can be considered “dignified.”  Choosing the DWDA is not dignified, respectable or courageous.  It is running in fear from the diagnosis rather than facing it courageously, head-on.  Have I ever had a life-threatening diagnosis?  No.  Do I know people with terminal illness?  Yes.  Have I suffered in their pain.  YES.  Do I wish it on anyone?  No.  One of my friends had an operation earlier this year to remove a brain tumor.  It was a scary diagnosis.  It was as if our lives were whizzing by and the end of lives were staring us in the face.  Would she be okay?  Is she going to have to get chemotherapy treatment?  Not sure.  These kinds of health diagnoses make us cry.  It makes us question and wonder and sometimes throw our hands up in the air.

Are diagnoses such as these justifiable for putting an end to the suffering?  Never.  We cry, and talk it out, cry some more, maybe get some counseling, and try our best to muddle through it all.  We walk the hard, terrifying, scary, and daunting road together.  Just like the two amputees with prosthetic legs whom I saw running a 5K with me last year – we keep on keepin’ on.  My mind was blown.  One of the amputees was a child.  Seriously.  Is their quality of life any lower than mine because I have two legs?  Their quality of life is just as good, if not better, than mine.

My heart aches for the young woman who is choosing DWDA.  My heart aches also for her husband.  Is he okay with all of this?!?  I’m here with words of love and hope.  Do I wish she would change her mind?  YES!  Heavens, yes!  Do I wish her to continue suffering? NO.  Choosing to end one’s own life is just never okay.  We would never allow a young child to choose to end their life, so why would we allow an adult to choose that?

Life is beautiful.  Life is life.  Life isn’t perfect but it’s still good.  A being with a soul is a person, and everyone person’s life is worth living.  Yes, there are varied levels of quality of life, but those qualities don’t determine the value.  The quality of life, whatever that may be, doesn’t enable us to determine when life can or should end.  It’s never perfect.  It was never meant to be perfect.  It is still good.  Every life, no matter what form, shape, color, whatever – every life is full of value.  No matter what.

6 Responses to “Euthanasia – Why or Why Not?”

  1. Joan October 9, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Rachel, thank you so much for this post. I had the same thoughts as you when I decided to watch one of the videos circulating on Facebook. While I absolutely feel for this girl, I fear that a story like this will help to glamorous what is certainly not dying with dignity.

  2. Philip October 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Well spoken Rachel. Thanks for the heartfelt truth you put into writing this.

  3. LauraMarieForLife October 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

    I love your take on this – and thanks for sharing your personal story of your friend. How powerful. It blows my mind when people see this as dignified and heroic. It’s not, like you said. How your friend approached death was heroic, and I wish more people could see the beauty in embracing whatever life brings.

  4. Katie Fox October 21, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Thank you for this post. I totally agree with you and its always a joy to hear your insight!


  1. Dear America: A few words on Brittany and suffering | A Drop in the Ocean - October 13, 2014

    […] pain Brittany is going through, and I do have compassion for her. I simply encourage you to look at the story of Rachel’s friend and consider which approach would challenge you to more virtue: facing suffering head on, or […]

  2. 7 Quick Takes: Competition Follow-up, Humorous Moments, and Great Bargains! | Keeping-It-Real - October 31, 2014

    […] 5.  For the past few years, I’ve been a volunteer for the 40 Days For Life campaign here in town.  This year I was *almost* ready to tell the coordinator that my schedule was too busy, but the grace of God, or my guilt for not having a very good excuse, signed myself up again as a volunteer for this year.  This week I went to pray at the prayer tent that is set up across the street from a Planned Parenthood facility where abortions have been performed.  During prayer, I reflected on the beauty of life, and how delicate and vulnerable the unborn are.  There are so many babies who are aborted simply from the fact that they were given a pre-birth diagnosis of a health defect or heart condition, or whatever.  If we don’t speak up for them and pray for them, who will?  We also need to pray for the people who are in danger of euthanasia. […]

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