This might be the most challenging reflection I have attempted to write about and certainly the most provocative piece of current-day discussions posed by many in the field of medicine, church, families of dying loved ones, and those who are the recipients of end-of-life decisions.
On Sunday, June 26, 2016, I finished reading an article by Ellen Goodman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on this very issue. Her perspective on the issue of end-of-life rights and the arguments pro and con about this is very profound and certainly gives one a basis to think about all the questions arising regarding the legal, ethical, moral, and deep concerns for everyone even remotely connected to so many decisions.
From my background as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, my somewhat limited study of Theology, and experience of one family member (Leo) who died while members of our family prayed, watched, and pre-mourned his slow passing as we stayed by his side in the hospital, I can put on paper a personal synopsis of my view of this question of death at the hands of us all; necessary and sorrowful at the same time.
Let me first answer the question as to what the Church says on this matter of Mercy Killing, to put it bluntly, Euthanasia according to # 2277 CCC states: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
2278; “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal or ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.”
2279; “Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.”
At times the discussion arises wherein shouldn’t the Church make a solid statement as to legitimize Euthanasia? Besides the answer above in 2277, the Church acts as the Agent for God on earth, but cannot become God in of itself. We, the Church, must always first seek the Will of Almighty God and then become the instrument of carrying out His Will as His Agent on earth.
As with Leo we followed all the prescriptions of letting him go to God in as unobstructed, peaceful manner, and at his side until the end. It isn’t easy watching and waiting for a loved one to slowly die, but to be with them as they pass over is a blessing in itself.
Death is a natural part of life, that is we are born, nurtured, catechized, and then pass out of this world as we know it, into the realm God has prepared for each of us. So, we must experience death in order to become eternal with Him.
Listen to the words spoken by the celebrant,when our remains are brought into the church or chapel; “In the waters of baptism N, died with Christ and rose with him to new life. May he/she now share with him eternal glory.”
Two times our bodies are touched with the waters of life; baptism wherein our person, body and soul, is accepted into the living, worshiping body of believers, and at our funeral where our remains are once again being sprinkled with the same baptismal water are presented to God with the hope of the Resurrection. Death can be seen as an end, yet it is a new beginning of life. Our soul doesn’t die (since it is eternal) we only step away from our earthly presence and step over the threshold into a life promised by God through Jesus Christ and guided by their Holy Spirit.
So this title could be called the “Beginning of Life!”