Death With Dignity vs. God’s Plan (September 2002)

Twenty-five years ago I personally experienced the anguish a terminally ill person and family endures when my second wife became ill with cancer. While in the shadow of death, her vitality languished as her life was consumed by pain.

Instead of extending and enhancing her life, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery seemed to have increased her suffering. She died a thousand deaths!

Her appetite was replaced by nausea and vomiting and her bodily wastes removed by catheter and colostomy. Her breathing was aided by an oxygen mask and tank, and her erect spine bent nearly at right angles.

Her mind became disoriented, and finally, all hope was replaced by despair. Every ounce of what was once a beautiful life had been replaced with excruciating suffering.

How much misery can a human being take? Doctors could not relieve her pain short of placing her in a drugged stupor. Is that life?

During her last few months of death her young (32) heart kept pumping painful chemicals and cancerous toxins throughout her body. She pleaded for help to end it all. But there was no law like Oregon’s for the terminally ill.

Since the Oregon law’s inception, some members of Congress and various religious establishments have been obstinate, even fanatical, in their effort to create roadblocks (fear, scare tactics, abuse, propaganda, lies, etc.) to stop it. Huge sums of money were spent trying to deny an individual the right to determine when his or her life was too painful to continue. The law was democratically passed twice and has since worked flawlessly.

The enormous amounts of money (over $6 million) and time spent fighting this law could have been better spent preventing millions of babies from suffering agonizing deaths. Those dollars could have saved millions of the 12 million lives of the children under 5, who die each year because of malnutrition, diarrheal dehydration, disease, lack of clean water, and proper sanitation.

Some of the money could have helped provide facilities for some of the billions of people who are without basic sanitation. If you doubt the plight of millions of children, visit Juarez and Tijuana just across the border in Mexico. Or go to Haiti, the Philippines, or Africa.

The Oregon law is strictly voluntary with numerous safeguards to avoid abuse. No doctor, pharmacist, congressman, or anyone is compelled to participate in Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

But Attorney General John Ashcroft has joined Senators Gordon Smith and Don Nichols in imposing their views on the terminally ill. It is nosurprise that Mr. Ashcroft attempted to override Oregon’s assisted suicide law. During his confirmation hearings, he said he would enforce current laws, even as critics cited examples where he had disregarded laws that conflicted with his beliefs.

One has to ask why many religious people are so vehemently opposed to allowing a terminally ill person to end unbearable suffering and yet be willing to interfere with “God’s plan” of death with defibrillators, pacemakers, joint replacements, etc. So the Attorney General blithely attempts to block a democratically passed law, ignores state rights, and refuses to acknowledge an individual’s personal right to end his or her own life.

Give priority to saving the lives of children and show some compassion for the terminally ill who want to avoid an agonizing death.

Freedom From Religion Foundation