“If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives — your family’s lives — and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”
So says Baroness Warnock, who has been advocating euthanasia in Britain for a long time is at it again.
I’m too under the weather to write, but I address this troubled woman, when my brother was dying, in this piece:
Our brother has lately gone quiet. He moans and coughs. When he does speak it is a word or two, soft and hoarse and largely unintelligible. Our visits are less conversational. The time of sharing memories and managing a smile or two is past. Now, it is all about stepping outside so that our brother can be turned and resettled, stepping back inside to help him eat, stepping back outside while he is turned again.
Many would contend that what life our brother has left is only pathetic, a life of suffering and sorrow, that counts for nothing. Many would say it. What I say in response is this: My brother’s life today is exactly like his life ten years ago. It is huge, it is love-filled, and it is fraught with humanity. It is the life he has.
…I stood at the foot of the bed and saw his face as Mom drew near. Too exhausted for words, he reached for her and she took his hand. His eyes saw only his mother, and they said, “Mommy… oh, my Mommy,” and her eyes said the rest: “Son… oh, my son.”
But this is too sad, it is. Life is so very sad and so very beautiful. Some will scoff: “Beauty? What beauty? What kind of sick mind can find beauty in this pietà? It would be more beautiful to help your brother to end his suffering. Real love has nothing in common with pain. What is to be gained from all of this beside some medieval Catholic satisfaction in suffering?”
I can only answer that question with a question: Do you think that giving my lionhearted brother a “compassionate” needle would truly lessen our suffering, or his? By cutting short the process, do we step off the Via Dolorosa and avoid it all, or do we merely thwart a plan for our own lives? Should we steal from our brother the opportunity for him to reach out a hand and have it immediately grasped, to have everything about his existence affirmed, over and over?
Should we steal from ourselves the opportunity to love?
We have been trained in the secular world to disregard life as something holy and to understand that our human potential is inextricably tied to our personal freedoms and our domination over those uncontrollable matters of life: death, pain, and joy. This is a great deception. The truth is, just as human expansion upon the earth depended upon someone being willing to explore those uncharted waters marked, “Here be monsters,” our human potential can only grow when it is open to exploring the Unknowable. The vehicle for that exploration is faith. If the monsters of life are pain and suffering, fear and doubt, moving through them is what leads to discovery, growth, and — yes — holiness. God does not give us more than we can endure, but we cannot ascertain on our own precisely how much strength we have.
It is impossible to explore the depths of our potential, or its limits, if we steadfastly refuse to take the journey. But increasingly, that refusal is being regarded as wisdom.
In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords has proposed a bill to promote assisted dying for the terminally ill. The bill will “enable a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal illness to receive medical assistance to die at his own considered and persistent request….”
On the surface, this seems like a humane idea; why not allow the terminally ill to choose when and how they will die? In the weeks prior to the public debate on the legislation, prominent members of the British press and certain politicians worked at guiding public opinion toward support of the bill. Journalist Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian about her mother’s wish to end her ordeal with cancer, throws angry barbs at “the cult of the natural,” which includes “the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic cardinal together claiming ‘the respect for human life in all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society.’ That is a religious view humans must endure, whatever their creator ordains. But 80 percent of the population don’t think the dying should suffer beyond what they can bear.”
Right behind Toynbee’s pained essay came Baroness Warnock in the Sunday Times announcing, “One of the things that would motivate me [to die] is I couldn’t bear hanging on and being such a burden on people…. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance. If I went into a nursing home it would be a terrible waste of money that my family could use far better.”
Both women pish posh the idea that, in suffering and death, something greater might be at work than what our limited, earthbound sensibilities can comprehend. Neither cares to look at how such a law might allow “assisted death” to become routine whenever someone deems that another’s life is really not worth living.
Neither woman pauses to consider whether “assisted death,” much like abortion, serves to cut off avenues of love before they are fully traveled. Nor do they seem to grasp what the “cult of the natural” and the “religious view” have been trying to teach: that life brings love, and love is God; that life interrupted is love interrupted, and love interrupted is God interrupted. Nor does either woman wonder what or who is served by such interruption.
This is a bill, and a mindset, that scream out: Give me only the pastels! And the only things that can come of them are a terrible social weakness that thwarts the means by which we may grow and be strengthened — and a graceless and ignoble cultural death. For there is nothing noble or courageous in “not being a burden” on the family and finances, as the baroness recommends; rather, nobility is found in the humility of allowing oneself to be sick, in allowing others the opportunity to minister and grow through you and your ordeal. And while I cannot gainsay Toynbee’s grief regarding her mother’s death, I cannot agree with her that a quick injection could have put a better face on her mother’s end-of-life experience.
I hope you’ll read the whole piece. It really speaks to this death-loving age, to the “culture of death” that does not understand how vital it is that we – as a society – manage to hang on to, experience and live through our whole lives – even through the parts that seem “useless” and difficult – or we cease to grow and learn, and begin to dismantle our very humanity.
Vanderleun: Just die; it’s your duty: “The killing became automatic.” A chilling must-read.
Ed Morrissey explains why the Baroness should not shock you.
Ann Althouse has more.