Brittany Maynard’s suicide in the face of inoperable brain cancer last week has focused a great deal of attention on an issue that is very personal to me, having personally taken part in three end-of-life situations that were, in essence, assisted suicides. The Vatican is quite unhappy about the whole thing.
The Vatican’s top bioethics official on Tuesday called “reprehensible” the suicide of an American woman suffering terminal brain cancer who stated she wanted to die with dignity.
Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the ANSA news agency that “dignity is something other than putting an end to one’s own life.”
Brittany Maynard’s suicide in Oregon on Saturday, following a public declaration of her motives aimed at sparking political action on the issue, has stirred debate over assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
Carrasco de Paula said “Brittany Maynard’s act is in itself reprehensible, but what happened in the consciousness we do not know.”
As is so often the case, the Catholic Church’s doctrines are completely out of touch with the reality of people’s actual lives. Believe me, I’ve been there. What is truly reprehensible is to keep someone’s body alive and prolong their suffering against their will. I was there with my grandmother, whose body was riddled with cancer. After spending months in the hospital having surgeries and treatments, she asked to be taken home where she could die in peace. The doctors left morphine behind with a wink, knowing what would be done. It would have been cruel to let her keep suffering.
I was there with my uncle, who was dying of AIDS 19 years ago. He had lived 9 years with the disease at a time when few did that and most of that time was healthy. But at the end, he was in absolute misery. He had dementia and pneumonia that could not be made better. I was standing at his bedside when he finally died, again helped by morphine. He was literally gasping for air and his body convulsed constantly. What would have been reprehensible is letting him continue in that condition any longer than necessary.
I think the Catholic church’s position on this is what is truly reprehensible.