Help in Dying
Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide advance their philosophy and
legislative proposals by using terms such as "assist in dying," and "helping to
die." This is carefully veiled language that, in a way very similar to the
phrase "pro-choice," makes something which is very evil sound very good.
An example of its effectiveness is the following story.
I was stationed in a NY city parish some years ago when a ballot initiative
regarding assisted suicide came up in another state. I asked the parishioners to
contact any friends or relatives they had in that state, to inform them of how
harmful the initiative was. A few days later, one of the parishioners told me
she spoke to her daughter, who lived in the state in question, and that her
daughter obtained a copy of the various initiatives that were to be voted on.
She said that the one I spoke about wasn t listed.
I asked her to send me the list...And right there on the list was the ballot
initiative I had spoken of. This woman and her daughter, even when they knew
what they were looking for, couldn t find it, because the language was so
carefully sugar-coated. The initiative spoke about giving "assistance in dying."
This kind of language blurs the critical moral distinction between giving
assistance to a dying person and placing an act which brings about death.
Mother Teresa "assisted" many people "in dying" and "helped" many people "to
die." She was present to them, assuring them that they would not die alone. She
helped them find the courage to face death, the conviction that their dignity
had not been lost, and the serenity borne of receiving love from people and from
God. This is the legitimate meaning of death with dignity and of
helping people to die. This, in fact, is the Gospel response to the dying
members of the human family.
It is another thing altogether to place an act which causes death, claiming
that one therefore "helps" the person to escape suffering. While the motive and
intention may be good, the means to achieve the end -- directly causing death --
is morally illicit.
Studies clearly indicate that requests for death are withdrawn when the
patient receives adequate counseling and pain management. Modern medicine is
capable of handling pain and depression. Compassion for the dying demands that
we strengthen and extend those services, rather than expand opportunities for
The pro-life movement is always a movement of welcome and broader inclusion,
whether for the unborn or the sick and dying.
No religion, and no pro-life group, advocates that we are obliged to take
every single treatment and procedure under the sun to keep us alive. Foregoing a
worthless treatment is not, and should not be called, euthanasia or suicide. Yet
while there are such things as worthless treatments, there is no such thing as a
worthless life. When we remind sick persons of that truth, then we are providing
the best "help in dying."
Contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel:
888-PFL-3448, 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; email: email@example.com;
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