The Catholic Church is bringing out its heavy artillery to fight a Massachusetts ballot initiative that, if passed, would allow doctors to prescribe lethal pills to terminally-ill patients that want to be put out of their misery.
I’m with the church on this one.
Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh describes this quite nicely:
An initiative petition to legalize physician-assisted suicide has been certified by Attorney General Martha Coakley. If backers collect enough signatures, and the Legislature fails to act, the question will go on the November 2012 ballot.
Modeled on the death-with-dignity law in Washington state, the measure says that if an adult state resident is judged terminally ill with less than six months to live by two physicians, he can get a lethal prescription.
The initial request has to be made in writing. Two people, one of whom is not a family member (and would not share in the estate), have to witness the signing of the request and attest that patient is capable and acting voluntarily. The terminally ill patient has to repeat the request twice verbally, at an interval of at least 15 days. He would be counseled about alternatives like hospice care and pain control. The lethal dose would not be administered by a physician; rather, the patient would swallow it himself.
If the initiative does make the ballot, expect determined opposition. Indeed, Cardinal Sean O’Malley focused on the ballot question during a recent Mass for Bay State lawmakers and jurists, saying he hoped that Massachusetts citizens would not be seduced by language like “dignity,’’ “mercy,’’ and “compassion.’’ Those words, he said, are a “means to disguise the sheer brutality of helping people to kill themselves. A vote for physician-assisted suicide is a vote for suicide.’’
After laying all this out, Lehigh asks:
“If a terminally ill patient wants to end his life a little early, why is that against the good of his person?”
Fair question. Here’s my opinion:
When a person chooses to end their life it’s always tragic. If depression is the cause, the individual has lost all hope and is effectively no longer able to make sand decisions. If a person is terminally ill, they are often in unspeakable pain. On some levels, you can’t blame a person in that situation for wanting to end the pain.
Here’s my problem, though:
Doctors are often wrong. I know of many people who were told they had six months to live and outlasted the grim prognosis by years. Whether you have weeks, months or years to live, there’s a lot of good you can still do with your life. We’ve heard many tales of people who achieved greatness in the face of death, helping their fellow man and living with dignity instead of rolling over and quitting.
When a person is so sick they can’t do those things, they want to relieve loved ones of the burden they feel they’ve become. But to me that’s bullshit. If you spend your life taking care of people, it’s perfectly appropriate for them to take care of you when the time comes. Most people I know want to care for their sick loved ones.
My ultimate attitude is that it’s not over until God says it’s over. Trying to die before it’s really time is cheating. Some will cry bullshit on that point. I don’t really care.
If you want to die with dignity, that’s your business.
I’d rather live with dignity — If for no other reason than to piss off the health insurers who fight tooth and nail not to cover life-saving procedures on a daily basis.
I bet my insurance provider would gladly cover my lethal injection. It’s cheaper than paying for my other procedures.
This could be my way of saying “fuck them.”