Euthanasia, Despair, and Hope

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A couple of years ago my church granted me the privilege of acting as “parish nurse.”  It is a designation that I count an extreme privilege, and a blessing.  In contrast to the normal expectations of my “professional” career,  now I am expected to aid persons in their spiritual care as well as their physical.   So I am focused not only on today’s needs, but also on what is eternal.  Parish nurses view health not only as the absence of disease, but also as a sense of physical, social, psychological and spiritual well-being which is possible even when curing may not occur.  I hold to the Christian teaching that all life has meaning and purpose, even suffering (sometimes I think especially suffering), so I was happy to see what showed up on Alan Jacobs’ blog  recently:

Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are not a “solution” to suffering, but an elimination of the suffering human being. It is therefore the confirmation of despair, of the overwhelming feeling that all suffering can only end when the human person himself ceases to be. If the pastoral caregiver were to support the request for euthanasia, he would be capitulating to despair, which is contrary to the hope alive within him which he wants to proclaim. If the Church’s minister were out of a false of compassion accede to such a request it would constitute an enormous situation of scandal and denial of the truth, “You shall not kill.”

In a Letter to the Elderly in 1999, St. John Paul II shared his faith in these words: “It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the kingdom of God. At the same time, I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me: from life to life… And so I often find myself saying, with no trace of melancholy, a prayer recited by priests after the celebration of the Eucharist: At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you. This is the prayer of Christian hope.”
— F. B. Henry, Bishop of Calgary

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