It’s still in the distance, though one can faintly hear its haunting “choo-choo”: the euthanasia death-train that’s picking up speed.
Is there time to warn the conductor of impending doom?
Its European counterparts can help us see more clearly. In September, the first legal death of a minor from euthanasia took place in Belgium, made possible by a law that went into effect in 2014 allowing children of any age to be euthanized under certain conditions.
Though the child was terminally ill, few would argue that — given we’ve now reached the point of presenting children the option of premeditated death — something is amiss.
In our own country, five states currently allow adult euthanasia, with California the latest car to latch on, behind Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Montana. Colorado will confront this on its ballots in a few days.
But some opponents of this movement are concerned that a right to die could become a duty to die.
I recently heard a Christian radio host discussing the mindset at the heart of this disturbing trend. Host Al Kresta, who is wheelchair-bound, said we’ve gone from a culture focused on “sanctity of life” to one in which “quality of life” matters most.
A friend with visual impairment commenting on my Facebook post about the show expressed concern about how we’ll determine eligibility for life or death in the future.
“It’s very frightening to me,” she said, noting that she’s heard people say they’d rather die than be blind. Will her life soon be considered less valuable than another?
Recently, the New York Post reported on a terminally ill mother of four who, in seeking treatment, was denied chemotherapy but offered a suicide drug at the very reasonable price of $1.20. If the life of a young mother can be valued so low, what’s next?
In creating situations in which it is becoming easier for people to seek death than life, a train collision seems imminent, but it’s not too late for us to pause to prevent a total disaster.
California offers another glimpse of how alluring euthanasia can be, yet how sinister.
This past summer, Betsy Davis, a 41-year-old Californian, became one of the first in her state to legally end her life “on her own terms.” Davis had been suffering from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, for several years, according to a DailyMail.com article.
Wanting to end it all before things got much worse, she invited her closest friends and family to a two-day goodbye party. The only rule? “No crying in front of me.”
As the party subsided, just before sunset on the second evening, Davis was brought by car to the top of a hill, placed on a canopy bed, and with her doctor, caretaker, massage therapist and sister present, she consumed the drugs and waited for death. She perished four hours later.
Though photos accompanying the article show happy participants, and the beautiful hostess in her wheelchair sporting a colorful, comfortable dress, the pall in the room had to have been palpable.
“The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in (a) suicide — that is not a normal thing,” one friend admitted later. “In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming.”
What if, instead of this, we would agree to encircle our loved ones with words of hope, and the commitment to see it through with them to natural death? Suffering is messy, but might there be value in walking the sufferer through their pain rather than pointing out the escape hatch?
And what about the mentally ill? Might we be sending the message to those struggling with depression that we’d be better off without them? How about the elderly? The poor?
Nobody enjoys watching a loved one suffer or being handed a diagnosis that will end in a slow, painful death. We naturally try to avoid suffering. But we also bear a responsibility to do what is morally right.
Opponents of the California law worry it could become a way out for people who are uninsured or fear high medical bills. In the second article, Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund voices this while stating that millions in her state are now “threatened by the danger of this law.”
I also find it disturbingly ironic that the formerly named Hemlock Society pushing for so-called “death with dignity” legislation has renamed itself Compassion and Choices. Compassion means “to suffer with.” If real love were applied, dying with dignity wouldn’t involve hastening our loved ones’ — or our own — deaths.
Our lack of regard for life comes with harrowing implications. When quality of life reigns over sanctity of life, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be the one being asked to sacrifice our lives for another, more suitable citizen.
As the Rod Stewart spiritual goes, “People get ready, there’s a train a’ coming.” Though this train’s chugging along at a good pace now, it’s not too late to redirect the engine.
All aboard? Let’s pray to God not.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Nov. 5, 2016.]