Friday, March 13, 2015

Whose life is it? The Illogic of Physician Assisted Suicide

by Sister Constance Veit, L.S.P.

Whose life is it anyway? I can’t get this question out of my mind as I come to grips with the fact that assisted suicide legislation is currently being introduced in a dozen states and the District of Columbia. While some persons faced with serious illness consider taking their lives because they fear they will be a burden to others or have no one to care for them, for others this choice is a declaration of personal autonomy. To the question, “Whose life is it anyway?” they answer, “It is mine to do with what I want.”In college I wrote a medical ethics paper on a play titled “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” That old paper came to mind recently when I learned that the campaign for physician assisted suicide has been gaining momentum. The renewed push to legalize “aid in dying” or “death with dignity,” as various groups euphemistically call it, is the result of positive media coverage in the wake of a young terminally ill woman’s decision to end her life on her own terms and at the precise moment of her choosing.

The claim that each of us is master of our own life, with the power to do with it whatever we choose, just doesn’t make sense. After all, which of us chose the date, time or conditions of our birth? Who of us ultimately gets to choose the path that will lead to our death — will it be an accident, a random act of violence, a sudden heart attack or a prolonged illness? Human logic would tell us that we are never completely in control of our lives. God’s word should convince us of this as well.

Sister Constance Veit is director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

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