I was intrigued to see the latest op-ed column in the New York Times by David Brooks titled Respect the Future. In it, he seems to have evolved his position on assisted suicide – from his past stances arguing in favor of assisted suicide for debt control, to now questioning it. (To read about David Brook’s past opinions see my past blog entry dated July 19, 2011 titled Assisted Suicide for Debt Reduction).
In the article David Brooks discusses the very sad Snelling murder-suicide case in Pennsylvania. This is a very relevant case in Vermont, as it involved the brother of our past Vermont Governor Richard Snelling. Barbara Snelling, sister-in-law of the deceased, and wife of former Gov. Snelling sits on the board of directors for Patient Choices Vermont, the lead group pushing assisted suicide in Vermont. Their daughter was the chief spokesperson for assisted suicide in the Vermont Judiciary Committee hearings last month.
In this case, Charles Snelling shot his wife with Alzheimer’s, then himself. He had been caring for his dementia-stricken wife for six years. During the time he cared for his wife he wrote a beautiful and moving account of his role as care-giver for his ailing soul mate. The moving account appeared last December on Nytimes.com, in response to an op-ed column by David Brooks requesting “Life Reports” from people reflecting on their own lives.
In his latest column Mr. Brooks laments the loss of future for the Snellings, pointing out that Charles Snelling did not know what he would have felt in the future. He writes that Charles Snelling underestimated the human ability to pull ourselves through our lowest lows. David Brooks concludes that, “It’s better to respect the future, to remain humbly open to your own unfolding.“ We certainly agree. He further opines that community requires interdependence, and that while from a completely autonomous point of view Charles Snelling might have been legitimized, but from a communal, interdependent point of view he disrespected the future and those interconnected with it.
Mr. Brooks is right. Every life has a purpose. Every life affects many others. Those effects are profound, and any life cut short is truly a tragedy and has long and lasting impacts on others.
It could possibly take a horrible tragedy like the Snelling case to hit home at just how sad and serious the issue of suicide is. We applaud Mr. Brooks for this recognition, but while Mr. Brooks has now evolved to “respect the future,” he still appears to fall short of the ultimate goal of unconditionally respecting life.
You can read David Brook’s op-ed here: