Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Illusion of "Death with Dignity"

An axiom of the Christian faith is that we do not own ourselves; rather, we are stewards charged with respecting our physical bodies. This principle recognizes God’s role in endowing us with personhood, and it properly subordinates our temporal nature to our innermost spiritual dignity. Christian’s respect for life from creation until natural death is rooted in this truth, and it is for this reason that no properly instructed Christian can, in good conscience, condone any act that violates our essential dignity. Washington’s assisted-suicide measure, overwhelmingly passed in the fall, does just this. Moreover it creates a terrible schism in society’s psyche that tolerates suicide in one sense but not another. Take for example the front-page story recently run in the Peninsula Daily News lauding Linda Fleming as the first woman to die with dignity. This story extolled her supposed bravery because she ended her pain and suffering, yet within a short period the paper ran a story along the same vein, which criticized the eighth street bridges for not being fitted with higher railings because they encourage people to jump. Of course supporters of “Death with Dignity” will point to the difference in circumstances, however, they cannot but admit that only the means differed and the end remained the same. To a well-informed conscience it is clear that suicide is an intrinsically selfish decision by which a person determines that their life is no longer valuable.

The lie that people accept is that their dignity will be preserved by their self-termination, yet, they do not recognize that this fundamentally undermines any moral defense of human value. If society condones death in one sense what is to preserve it in another, such as murder? What is to prevent doctors or other agents from determining that our lives are unworthy? This is a very real slippery slope that can only end in the continued desecration of a person’s value.

Perhaps the most insidious consequence of the assisted-suicide mindset is that it is the same belief that inspires countless dictators, despots and tyrants. It is the means by which they assert control and maintain the“purity” of their races. It is something that we, as Americans, have historically opposed, and our nation has sent hundreds of thousands to die in defense of that belief. Yet now, in the spirit of liberty, we have embraced the very evil we have fought to eradicate. It may not be as blatant as it was under the regimes of Slobodan Milošević or Adolph Hitler, but it is just as virulent and just as dangerous. By tacitly affirming the belief that some lives are unworthy or not valuable we reject the principles that this nation was founded upon and invite a silent holocaust. Liberty, which is the preeminent American value, can never be divorced from responsibility. As persons we must oppose anything that undermines our inherent dignity, and as voters we have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations to repair the damage already done. True death with dignity is only possible if we properly acknowledge the gift that we have been endowed with: Life.

~Daniel Acheson

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