Monday, July 17, 2017

Whose Life Is It Anyway?


 There's an old saying in law school, "Hard cases make bad law." In simple terms, it means that an extreme case should not be the basis for a law of general applicability. Hard cases are also used as the wedge for people to accept as good (or morally acceptable) things that are not. In 1981, the movie Whose Life Is It Anyway? (based on the play of the same name by Brian Clark) presents us with actor Richard Dreyfuss in the lead role of Ken Harrison, a well-known sculptor who is involved in an horrific car accident leaving him a quadriplegic. Harrison becomes depressed and wants to die, so he hires a lawyer to sue for the so-called "right to die." The judge decides that Harrison is of sound mind and grants his request. The attending physician tells him that he will not have to leave the hospital if he chooses, and they will respect his wish to discontinue dialysis for his defunct kidneys. No attempt would be made to revive him when he slips into a coma. Harrison is returned to his bed; he looks at a sculpture he made and smiles as the end credits roll.

 Of course, "quality of life" wins, and the character of Ken Harrison is used to evoke pity and empathy for the nascent physician assisted suicide ("PAS") movement. Fast forward 36 years. According to the federalist.com, "Politicians in the Netherlands are discussing the possibility of legalizing euthanasia for healthy people. The proposed 'Completed Life Bill' would allow any person age 75 or over who decides their life is 'complete' to receive euthanasia. It doesn’t matter if they are otherwise perfectly healthy." (See https://thefederalist.com/2017/06/30/netherlands-considers-euthanasia-healthy/--Emphasis mine).

 On February 13, 2014, Belgium (formerly one of the most Catholic countries on Earth) legalized euthanasia by lethal injection for children. Young children will be allowed to end their lives with the help of a doctor in the world’s most radical extension of a euthanasia law. Under the law there is no age limit to minors who can seek a lethal injection. Parents must agree with the decision, however, there are serious questions about how much pressure will be placed on parents and/or their children. Here in the U.S. California became the fifth state to permit PAS beginning June 9, 2016, joining Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Montana.(Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the California bill into law, trained to be a Jesuit priest in the 1950s).

The aforementioned movie asked the right question, but gave the wrong answer to "Whose life is it anyway?"

Common Arguments for PAS and Rebuttals

1. The argument from personal autonomy; It's my life and I don't want to suffer.
Libertarians are big on personal autonomy, but short on theology. First, just because someone wants to end their life, doesn't mean they should be permitted to do it. Wouldn't even the most ardent libertarian urge someone on a ledge not to jump? They may have depression, etc. However, what if someone is under a lot of pain and has no "quality of life"? What if they are rational? One must weigh the personal autonomy against the policy change any new law entails and how it impacts others. In May 1994, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, was convened by former Governor Mario Cuomo (no Traditionalist Catholic--or his pro-sodomite, pro-abortion son, now Governor Andrew Cuomo). The unanimous decision was surprising: A law allowing assisted suicide "would be profoundly dangerous for many individuals who are ill and vulnerable." According to the Task Force, the "... risks would be most severe for those who are elderly, poor, socially disadvantaged, or without access to good medical care." (See the report When Death is Sought, pg. ix).

 People will feel pressured to die so as not to be a "burden" to those they love. There is much good palliative care so that people need not suffer much. Remember, too, that suffering has a God-given purpose to expiate sin and share in the Passion of Our Lord. Life comes from God, not from ourselves.
Condemned proposition # 3 of the Syllabus of Errors, states "Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations."

2. The argument of an "outdated Hippocratic Oath." 
"First, do no harm" means helping patients who want to end their lives to do so. The patient needs to dictate what they think is best for them. 

This argument is open to the same objections in #1 above. Furthermore, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, reports that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States at 225,000 deaths per year. Half are medical mistakes, including 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; and 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals. There are many good physicians and many bad ones, just like any other profession. With this alarming number of mistakes, do we really want to make a decision about our very life on what could be a "mistake"?

 A very good friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer when he was young, and before I met him. He went to Sloan Kettering for treatment here in NYC. It is considered one of the best cancer hospitals in the world. My friend was only 17 at the time, and after three years of painful treatments (chemo, radiation, etc.) the doctors gave up. They told his parents the cancer had spread to over 80% of his lymph nodes and he would not live to see his 21st birthday. He was moved into hospice. Every day he said he woke up and thought this would be the day he died.

 When his 21st birthday arrived, not only was he alive, but he had put back on much of the weight he had lost and his hair came back in. The doctors took him out of hospice and subjected him to a battery of tests; three times repeated. His parents demanded to know what was going on. The head of oncology told them, "I have no explanation for what I'm about to tell you. There's not a single cancer cell in your son's body!" He was the only patient released from that hospice alive! He is now 60 years old, a partner in a NY CPA firm and happily married. Imagine if they were given the option of PAS and his parents were made to feel guilty for "allowing your son to suffer," and my friend was told, "your parents are going through a lot watching you like this." There might have been a very different ending.  Miracles do happen!


3. PAS will save money on people who will die anyway. Palliative care is not always enough.

We all "die anyway," so that justifies PAS to save on money? According to Wesley J. Smith, JD, "Studies show that hospice-style palliative care 'is virtually unknown in the Netherlands [where euthanasia is legal].' There are very few hospice facilities, very little in the way of organized hospice activity, and few specialists in palliative care, although some efforts are now under way to try and jump-start the hospice movement in that country...

The widespread availability of euthanasia in the Netherlands may be another reason for the stunted growth of the Dutch hospice movement. As one Dutch doctor is reported to have said, 'Why should I worry about palliation when I have euthanasia?'"  (See Forced Exit [1997] 132).

Conclusion

 It's a truism that life is a gift from God, and whether we live or die is in His Hands (See Psalm 16:15). The just man is depicted not as seeking deliverance from the burdens of old age, but as putting his trust in God’s loving providence.  Jesus Christ reveals the life-giving value of suffering. Christ’s sacrifice redeemed the whole world, but in appropriating this redemption for ourselves, we are instructed to follow Jesus’ example and carry our own crosses with God's grace.

Facing our own mortality is the most difficult thing any of us will ever do. I don't know how I will react; I pray for the grace of Final Perseverance every day so that God will grant me great graces to face the end with courage like a true Traditionalist. "And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." (St. Matthew 10: 22). None of us knows when, where, or how we shall die, except by special revelation from God. We must, therefore, make the most we have of our time here and not allow it to be cut short by ourselves, an immoral doctor, or the government via PAS.

 Remember, if we don't stop the mad push for PAS, the so-called "Right to Die" movement will become the "You're Old (Sick, Unwanted, etc) and Have a Duty To Die" movement that will be coming after us. 

9 comments:

  1. We see here the old paganism with new clothes. Cruelty, abortion, death to the incapacitated and / or old, immorality at unbearable levels, etc. And there is still Traditionalists falling into the tale of pagan and satanic perennialism just because it is against modernity. Paganism of the Past and Modernity are the same.

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  2. What a great way to get rid of undesirables or people who
    "ask too many questions".
    Very heartbreaking to read that Belgium was one of thee most Catholic countries on Earth at one time.Was this before the late 1960's?

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    1. Yes. Belgium pre-Vatican II was over 99% Catholic and the State Religion. Fr. DePauw, founder of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement was born and raised there as was Fr Damien, the "Leper Priest."

      Fr DePauw didn't even meet a non-Catholic until after his ordination to the priesthood. They were just people he read about in textbooks. In 1960, over 75% of the population attended daily Mass.

      Then came Vatican II and paganism. Belgium is a Constitutional Monarchy, and as late as 1990 when the law to permit abortion passed, King Baudouin refused to sign it and was going to abdicate the throne. The government removed him as King for one day so the bill would become law without his signature. They unanimously asked him to continue as King because "your country needs you." He died in 1993 without children and his younger brother Albert took the throne.

      Today, it is one of the most pagan nations on Earth. The New Springtime of Vatican II strikes again.

      ---Introibo

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    2. I'm convinced its the literally the last days.
      The story of Belgium is ghastly.

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    3. Having a daily valid Holy Sacrifice of the Mass within 20 mins of my home is something I can't comprehend nor imagine.
      We have 1 Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday & Holy Day,25 mins from my home.
      What a satanic crime to remove the daily Holy Mass & replacing it with an Anglican table service.
      One reason that I support Catholics attending the SSPX (given they have valid priests) is most catholics aren't blessed to have a sede chapel like us.
      Speaking of Belgium,the SSPX has a seminary in that country plus a few chapels.
      These priests are ordained validily and use the proper holy mass.I prefer pre-1950 Catholicism but there is nothing heretical in the 1962 missal.
      Belgium,like the rest of the world,needs all the sanctifying grace possible!

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    4. Yes, we could be in the Last Days, but we must continue to fight for the Church regardless. I'm blessed to reside in New York City within a one hour travel distance of three Traditionalist Chapels! Nearby Long Island is the "Home of Traditionalist Catholicism"!

      Of course I also agree 100% that the world needs sanctifying grace more than ever---including poor Belgium!

      ---Introibo

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  3. Where have all the morals gone in this world?? PAS is depraved. It seems morals have been replaced with depravity.

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    1. Where have morals gone, Joann? The same place as the Faith---down the drain, all thanks to Vatican II.

      ---Introibo

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