July 8, 2014

"I want to be a burden on my family as I die, and for them to be a burden on me"

Giles Frasier in the Guardian says his problem with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live

I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me – it's called looking after each other. Obviously, I know people are terrified of the indignity of dying and of being ill generally. Having someone wipe our bums, clean up our mess, put up with our incoherent ramblings and mood swings is a threat to our cherished sense of personal autonomy…..

No, we are not brains in vats. We are not solitary self-defining intellectual identities who form temporary alliances with each other for short-term mutual advantage. My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. Of course, I will clean you up. Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this.

Likewise, I have no fondness for pain per se. And I can even imagine taking a draught of something myself one day, were some pain to become utterly intolerable. I do understand. And, yes, even understand that helping others to do it can sometimes be an act of mercy…..

Yet too many of us make a Faustian pact with pharmacology, welcoming its obvious benefits, but ignoring the fact that drugs also can demand your soul. That's perhaps why we speak of the overly drugged-up as zombies.

Finally, the contemporary "good death" is one that happens without the dying person knowing all that much about it. But what about the need for time to say goodbye and sorry and thank you? It is as if we want to die without actually knowing we are dying.

Much of this originates in the excessive fear we now have of dying, a fear that is amplified by the let's pretend game that we play when we remove death from public view. It is precisely this fear that operates when adults worry about taking children to the funeral because "it will upset them".

As with many things like this, it is a reflection of adult anxiety rather than the child's ability to cope. And the message it communicates is that death is something strange, weird, and spooky. This only serves to incubate our fear and encourages us to devise further strategies to keep the full knowledge of its reality at bay.

Via  Ben Conroy at Patheos who in Euthanasia: A Further Erosion of Family Understanding writes

This is going to be one of the areas where "consent-only" morality (a coherent, internally consistent system which holds as its most fundamental principle that you own yourself) is going to have a real, substantial, irreconcilable clash with "agape-only" morality (which holds that you are owned in part by your friends and your family, and owned wholly by God). But it's also an area where Catholics have a strong, compassionate case to make. Great hospice care should become an immediately identifiable "Catholic issue"; and we can use cases like Belgium and the Netherlands as contrasts to paint a more human, more decent picture.

and  quotes Pope Francis:

In the family, one learns that the loss of health can never be a reason for discriminating against any human life. The family teaches about not falling into an individualism that weighs oneself against the others. And it is here, in the family, that "taking care of you" constitutes one of the fundaments of human existence and a moral attitude that must be promoted, and again through values, conscience effort and solidarity. The testimony offered by the family becomes crucial in the sight of every facet of society in its consistent affirmation of the importance of the aged person as he or she is a subject of the community, who has a mission to fulfill, and about whom it is always false to say he or she receives without offering anything in return
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 8, 2014 4:47 PM | Permalink