Southend Echo Article on Euthanasia
On Monday, my wonderful Parish Priest contacted me in a panic. He had been contacted by the local paper and asked to write something on the Catholic position regarding locked in syndrome. Basically, a reporter was writing a 'for and against' feature on the issues raised by the national case of Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of 'locked-in-syndrome' who is fighting for a change in the law so that a doctor can lawfully help him to die. After an extremely busy weekend, Fr. Kevin had run out of time to respond, and asked me to step in and produce something by 4pm. Once I got over my initial panic, I looked up the CDF Declaration on Euthanasia in order to re-appraise myself of the salient points of the argument. Read through, made some notes and then put finger to keyboard. Having finished, I contacted my friend Caroline Farrow, who is far more media savvy than I am, for advice on getting the article vetted. She said she'd have a look for me and suggested I contacted SPUC. I have to say they were brilliant and checked the piece over very promptly, allowing me to finalise a draft and send it over to the reporter in good time. The article is going to be published in the paper tomorrow, apparently, but if you want a sneak preview, here it is:
Mark Lambert, of Flemming Avenue, Leigh, has a degree in Catholic theology and teaches the Catholic faith at Father Kevin Hale's Parish in Leigh.
“Whenever I hear about a case like this, it’s like a stone in my heart. My father-in-law was an officer in the Merchant Navy who contracted Motor Neurone disease. With his family, I had to watch this amazing individual slowly deteriorate and rely on his wife and children to look after him.
There is no doubt that our culture is changing, and this influences the way society looks at suffering and death. It is completely understandable that many experience a great deal of anxiety about the meaning of advanced old age, sickness and death. They question whether they have the right to procure an “easy death” (via euthanasia or assisted suicide) which would shorten their suffering and reduce the burden on family. Surely this would seem in harmony with human dignity?
The essential issue is one of fundamental rights. The universal value of those rights must not be contradicted. These rights presuppose the basic dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death, regardless of what condition any person may be in. Suffering and death are unavoidable elements of the human condition. They have a deep psychological impact on those who experience them which forms part of the human experience. To this end, it is essential that we should be able to meet death in light of our human dignity and to journey to our end with courage and surrounded by a love that affirms that dignity and does not seek to dismiss a vulnerable life as something 'not-worth-living'. The journey itself gives understanding and depth to those who make it with us.
The other important issue is the long term effect that any acceptance of “mercy killing” will have on society. If deliberate killing of the innocent is acceptable under certain circumstances, we begin a journey down a road which can only lead to disaster; history has taught us this lesson. If one intelligent person can justify killing a patient in one case and a moral absolute is violated, how long before the ideology progresses further? Some boundaries must be retained and the sacred nature of life must be paramount in our considerations.
What I remember from my own father-in-law’s illness was his dignity in the face of the illness and the care that he was given by his family. They had an opportunity to really demonstrate their love for him in a way that mattered incredibly deeply, a long goodbye to the man they loved. He bore his illness and death with a determination to show them how much he loved them and wanted to be with them. We were all in the room when he drew his last breath and prayed and wept together. He had fought the good fight ‘till the end.”