One of the most significant challenges of our time is how to deal with death, and as medical science advances, the issue becomes more critical. Some project that by the year 2050, the U.S. government will spend a trillion dollars a year on millions of institutionalized Americans with Alzheimer’s and advanced stages of dementia. That is 50% more than all federal, state, and local agencies spend today on K-2 public education.
On a more personal level, Americans often spend the largest amount on medical care during the last year of life, depleting family resources and frequently leaving surviving family members destitute. I personally know of widows in our area who are living on a day-to-day basis because they spent all their savings caring for a dying husband.
Medically assisted suicide is the current trend in how to deal with death. Ending one’s life at a time and in a place of their choosing is now legal in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland, where it has been legal since 1942. Organizations worldwide and in the United States assist people in arranging legal medically assisted suicide.
At the moment, there are ten states and the District of Columbia that have medically assisted right-to-die programs. This trend began on November 22, 1998, when 60 Minutes broadcast a video of Michigan physician Jack Kevorkian administering voluntary euthanasia to Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease. Oregon passed the nation’s first “death with dignity” law four years later, and other states followed after 2016.
In Canada, a person can end life as young as 18 and need not have any life-threatening illness. In 2021 over 10,000 Canadians ended their lives through state-approved euthanasia. This statistic highlights a significant “slippery slope” problem with euthanasia or assisted suicide laws. They can expand to include people who have minor mental or social struggles.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is altogether unlawful to kill oneself because life is God’s gift to man and subject to His power, Who kills and makes to live. Hence whoever takes his own life sins against God.” In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” There is no easy answer to this question of how to deal with death. However, many of us will face the hard choices the end of life can bring.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: “Putting an End to It” by Terrence Keeley in Notre Dame Magazine for Spring 2023, pages 47-50