In May, Jim Shaw shared about a former Fargo resident who chose “death with dignity.” Though the pandemic overshadowed this important topic, it’s worth revisiting, especially since the column ended with a plea that North Dakota and Minnesota join states that have legalized assisted suicide.
I’d urge caution. We have not followed those states who have adopted this policy for many good, solid – and caring – reasons. I hope we can remain steadfast in our opposition.
Only the most depraved among us would want to see anyone suffer unfairly. Reading Shaw’s piece, I understood the subject’s loved ones wishing she could have the kindest death possible. In truth, though, the kindest death possible is one in which we love our dear ones to the end of natural death by unrelenting accompaniment – even when it’s difficult.
Words can lead to a false, even if well-intended, conclusion, so let’s keep the heart and head in balance here. Wisdom can help us see the truth.
To that end, it’s worth noting that at its root, “compassion” means “to suffer with.” Is it truly compassionate to help hasten our loved ones’ deaths? What if, instead, we chose to endure with them through their suffering, and use each moment we’re given, even when hard, to love them that much more?
“Dying with dignity” is a brilliant slogan which plays on our emotions, using words to deceive. We find this with the abortion issue, too. “Women’s health care” is substituted for the ugly but plain truth: killing a preborn human. By using descriptions like “blob of tissues,” we psychologically erase a person’s humanity.
Words can carry the weight of life and death. And life, given by God, can only be rightly taken back by its giver. “The Lord…controls the passageways of death” (Psalm 68). Deep in our conscience, we all know this, even those who deny God’s existence.
“Death with dignity” is, in truth, assisted suicide, the act of helping someone kill themselves. Those of us who oppose this lie also want our loved ones to die with dignity, but not through hastening their deaths.
What can be gained by joining forces with the “death with dignity” contingent? As evidenced by countries already widely practicing assisted suicide, the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network points out, once its principals become accepted by medical professionals and the public, “there is little chance that those eligible for permitted suicide would long remain limited to the dying.”
It is not for lack of compassion that we haven’t joined these other states, but because we’re willing to accompany our dear ones lovingly, patiently, and with the most comforting measures available, assuring them we will wait with them to natural death.
Let’s be thoughtful enough to properly honor and care for the lives God has placed with us; lives made in God’s likeness and image that deserve to be treated with true dignity.
[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 Aug. 30, 2020.]