Increasingly, in the courts and the media and in conversation, we are hearing about euthanasia and the so-called "right to die." It's time we all are fully informed about what is going on, and what the appropriate response should be.
Euthanasia is not a future problem. It is a present problem. It is happening now and becoming increasingly accepted. And we are asleep, not realizing that the road we are on will lead to the massive elimination of the elderly and "incompetent," and anyone else considered to be a burden to society. The reflections in this essay are intended to wake us up to the main issues involved in the euthanasia debate.
Consider the Nancy Cruzan case. She had been in a coma for almost eight years, but was NOT dying, NOT deteriorating. The courts allowed food and water to be discontinued, and 12 days later (on the day after Christmas) she died. Note well, she did not die of the coma. She died of starvation. She was 33. Or consider Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who let Janet Adkins, a 54 year old sufferer of early Alzheimer's, use his homemade "suicide machine" to kill herself. She pushed a button which released lethal fluids into her body. He has likewise administered death to dozens of others. Is this the direction we want our society to go? Is life valuable only when it is healthy? Are we the ones who decide when we die? Is suffering meaningless?
We do not have a "right to die." Many people now speak of such a thing, but without the proper understanding of the terminology they use. A "right" is a moral claim. We do not have a claim on death. Rather, death has a claim on us! We do not decide when our life will end, any more than we decided when it began. Much less does someone else -- a relative, a doctor, or a legislator--decide when our life will end. None of us is master over life and death.
What we do have a right to is proper care. It is never "care" in any sense of the word, to terminate life, even if that life is full of suffering. We have no right to terminate life. There are groups in our country pushing for the "right" to use lethal injections on the seriously ill, or to remove their food and water. We must oppose such moral nonsense with all our strength. And the time to oppose it is now, before it becomes solidified in law.
No matter how ill a patient is, we never have a right to put that person to death. Rather, we have a duty to care for and preserve life. But to what length are we required to go to preserve life? No religion or state holds that we are obliged to use every possible means to prolong life. The means we use have traditionally been classified as either "ordinary" or "extraordinary." "Ordinary" means must always be used. This is any treatment or procedure which provides some benefit to the patient without excessive burden or hardship. "Extraordinary" means are optional. These are measures which do present an excessive burden. The distinction here is NOT between "artificial" and "natural."...