Will that be euthanasia or palliative care

At coffee row on a nasty cold February day this winter we discussed what was happening with euthanasia in Canada. We did not agree on some of the moral issues. I was prompted to reflect on this matter again. 

In February 2017 I discussed the need for palliative care and the benefits of sharing our last precious hours with family and friends. Sometimes there is reconciliation among members, sometimes there is time needed to get reacquainted, and sometimes the natural process of letting go makes the grieving easier. 

The good news is that death can be a positive experience for family members. Dying is a natural event. Killing someone is not. Many do not understand the working of Grace in God’s plan for what comes beyond this realm. The dying often have a vision of what is about to unfold for them.

In his dying breath, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, looked past his family and said: “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.” Stories of seeming miraculous events experienced by our family members and friends abound. Faith is the element that makes sense of these events.

Faith is what helps us face the pain and suffering of dying. Faith helps us offer up this climactic event of our lives for our own salvation and for the salvation of others. Being born to eternal life is a process.

Faith is what challenges us to accept a natural death and its consequences. Christ died and rose from the dead to show us the way. We do not have to face crucifixion to be a follower of Jesus, but accepting God’s laws about respecting life from conception to natural death is a component of being a Christian. 

God wants us to live well, but he also wants us to die well. There is a tremendous gracefulness required to die well. What would you not do to alleviate the struggle and pain of a spouse, parent, child? Loving care, palliative care, is the answer.

The good news is that we do not have to die alone or in unbearable pain. Morphine and other drugs can provide relief. Respirators can help alleviate the anxiety of struggling for breath. 

Pain and suffering can be helped by palliative care. That is a moral choice. But we do not need to be trapped in the system that is trying to prolong life unnaturally. The dying can refuse any procedure or treatment. A cancer patient may refuse surgery, radiation or chemo. You have the final say on accepting treatment, says Father Mark Miller in Proper Care of the Dying.

Our lives are a gift from God. We share our time and our influence with our children and those around us. The dying have much to share and need the opportunity to “live” while they are dying. Hospice care can provide a non-hospital place for the dying.

Our dying is a legacy we leave with our loved ones. I have yet to hear someone say, “I wish I had spent less time with -n- before he died, or before she died. Eternal memory begins here, before death. Love transcends that passing through the veil of death.

In the end it is faith, reflecting on the dying and resurrection of Christ, that makes sense of suffering and death. We can learn much through the process of loved ones being born to eternal life.

(569 words)

By Ken Rolheiser