In this video Fr Mark addresses the push to legalise euthanasia in Australia, and advocates palliative care as a life-giving alternative. To find out more, visit http://careforlife.net.au/
by CYM Chaplain, Fr Mark Buamgarten
In the book of Deuteronomy, after having communicated all that God wanted him to, Moses said to the Chosen People: “I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God.”
This important phrase—Choose Life—enjoyed a pop culture resurgence in the 1980s, in part thanks to a famous music video (music video plays). And though the pop embrace of this phrase in the 80s was framed as a desire to promote world peace and prevent youth suicide, as time rolled on the pro-life undertones contained therein became a little too inconvenient for the shapers of popular culture, and so the phrase fall out of favour.
And that’s exactly right. It’s kinda hard to be exhorting world leaders and troubled teens to choose life when you’re also advocating for the ending of life in abortion, and—as we’re seeing now in Australia—the movement to legalise assisted suicide.
Now, it’s important to acknowledge that many people in favour of legalising euthanasia have a sincere desire to help those who are suffering. But it’s equally important to insist that euthanasia is *not* the caring response that it is often made out to be.
Firstly regarding those who are suffering. Euthanasia advocates often speak of “assisted dying” or “dying with dignity”, alongside other euphemisms designed to blur the reality of suicide. But given the excellent palliative care options available today, it is entirely possible to help the terminally ill to instead *live* with dignity—and in relative comfort—for however long they have left – if only we as a society were as committed to supporting and funding such care as much as some folks support death as a solution.
And to be clear, palliative care is not about prolonging life at any cost. The reasonable refusal of treatment that would artificially prolong life—as well as the increasing of medication to alleviate pain, even if it might possibly shorten life—such things are already legal and in many cases consistent with Church teaching. Good medical care aims to provide healing and relief from the symptoms of illness, whereas euthanasia seeks only to kill. The simple fact is that there are no reasonable medical grounds on which to justify assisted suicide.
Speaking of which, it is not surprising that the majority of doctors are justifiably concerned about the possibility of legalised euthanasia. By definition, assisted suicide is not simply a private choice, but requires someone else—usually a doctor—to assist. Almost all medical associations around the world have opposed euthanasia as being fundamentally opposed to the physician’s role as healer, and a breach of their primary duty to do no harm.
Furthermore, the evidence in places that have already legalised euthanasia shows that in many instances it is far from voluntary. In the Netherlands, more than 30% of people requesting euthanasia do so because they don’t wish to be a burden to others. Assisted suicide essentially sends a message to the elderly and people with disabilities that they are “better off dead”, and in practice it has led to a climate wherein—according to the Dutch government’s own study—the termination of life without the request of the patient has become “more or less routine.”
Think also of the message that assisted suicide sends to those struggling with depression. Indeed, almost every jurisdiction that has legalised euthanasia has seen a significant increase in the suicide rate.
There is an alternative to the spread of such a culture of death, and that is to choose life. Choose life by valuing the dignity of every person, and affirming that every human life is worth living. Choose life, by committing to support quality palliative care for all who need it, rather than thinking of death as a solution.
We believers know that the definitive victory over death has already been won by the risen Christ, and it is our duty to help others enter into the fullness of life that Jesus offers. As part of this, we are called to embrace our mutual responsibility for each other, and to generously do all we can to care for all human life. This is not just a question of politics, but it also speaks to how we live and treat each other in our everyday lives.
So to everyone watching this video, I implore you to take Moses’ words to heart, and to let them challenge every aspect of your life. “I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God.”