We shall be hearing more about the euthanasia issue over the coming times, and the case for legalising what is euphemistically called ‘assisted dying’.
Actually, every human being should be ‘assisted’ in their dying hours, in that they should be surrounded by comfort, care – both spiritual and physical – pain relief, and fellowship on the journey.
When my sister was dying in a New York hospice, a group of friends sat by her bed on a 24-hour rota, and in her last hours a doula – a kind of end-of-life midwife – soothed and comforted her just as when birth is imminent a midwife assists a mother in labour.
But ‘assisted dying’, for euthanasia campaigners, means helping to kill someone off. Doctors, trained to care for human life, are to be asked to terminate it.
‘Dying with dignity’ is another favoured euphemism. Again, we all hope to be able to die with some dignity, and the hospice movement has been developed for this very reason.
It’s not always possible to preserve all dignity towards the end of life, because of the procedures that may be necessary for the best interest of the patient. But it’s always possible to preserve an attitude of dignity and respect towards the human person.
Another mendacious phrase used by lobbyists is ‘the right to die’. Death is inevitable and will come to every living being. How can something that is inescapable be claimed as a ‘right’?
This ‘right’ to die is actually a claim to take one’s own life at the time and place of one’s own choosing, perhaps assisted by someone else.
Just when society is campaigning to reduce suicides, especially among depressed young people, is it such a great idea to elevate this as just another “choice”?
One of the arguments put forward by the euthanasia lobby is that ‘when pet animals are mortally ill, we ask the vet to give them a lethal injection to end their lives’.
But on a purely practical point – leave ethics aside – let’s point out that pet animals don’t write wills, leave legacies, or bequeath their 200 acres of prime land to a cousin in Australia. Humans sometimes do!
Family feuds over wills and legacies are legendary in Irish social history: how much more acute these conflicts might be if there were a suspicion that a family member had encouraged grandma to take the euthanasia injection to avoid spending the inheritance?
Suffering can occur towards the end of life, yes, and people often show immense courage in the face of suffering. It’s true that some “mercy killings” have always taken place (particularly on battlefields). But juries virtually never convict in cases where an individual has acted spontaneously, with compassionate intention, to foreshorten affliction.
Suffering can occur towards the end of life, yes, and people often show immense courage in the face of suffering”
Moral theology has always allowed, too, for the ‘double effect’ of alleviating pain.
When my sister’s life was ebbing, she did need stronger doses of morphine, and it was obtained. It’s possible that the opioid did abridge her life somewhat: but the intention was to relieve the dolour, not bump her off with a lethal injection.
White House might yet have a green tinge!
If President Trump is impeached by Congress, we shall have Mike Pence as President of the US.
Many American presidents have had Irish connections, but no president – even Jack Kennedy – has had as direct and recent an Irish family connection as Mike Pence.
Mr Pence’s grandfather, Richard Cawley, emigrated from Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, in 1923. There are people alive today who were on this earth in 1923 – the poet Maire Mac an Tsaoi (Mrs Conor Cruise O’Brien), still with us, was born that year.
As a youngster, he spent much time with his Irish grandfather. His grandmother was Irish-American, from Doonbeg.
Mr Pence is probably 40% Irish. Barack Obama, whose distant ancestor emigrated from Ireland in 1853 is only 3% Irish.
But which is more acclaimed in this country? Obama, of course.
Mike Pence has the disadvantage of being a committed Christian.
Donald Trump is disliked by feminists because of his “grabbing” attitude to women. Mike Pence never meets a woman alone, lest he be afterwards accused of impropriety: and he’s possibly even more disliked for that!
He could be in the White House very soon, however.