The article in italics was in the Burlington Free Press on February 13 (http://http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20130214/OPINION02/302140013/1006/OPINION/Better-than-assisted-suicide) .
It remains as relevant as ever.
Last December, 45-year-old deaf twins in Belgium were allowed to legally end their lives after learning they were also going blind. Neither was terminally ill or in physical pain at the time of their death. While I greatly sympathize with the brothers’ emotional angst, I can’t help but wonder about the good that might have come from their seemingly intolerable situation, the positive role that facing their “doomed existence” with courage might have had in helping others. Whose lives might have been enriched, including their own?
Who hasn’t been inspired by Helen Keller’s life story? Despite the incredible challenges of her multiple handicaps, she exemplified all that is great about our indomitable human spirit. How many countless lives she touched in her own time and beyond! When faced with trials, I have often been encouraged by reflecting on them with what I call “Helen Keller Perspective”. She was — and still is — my hero. Allow me to share a few of her more pertinent quotes:
“(Our) blindness changes not a whit the course of inner realities.”
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein to be content.”
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything good in the world.”
“When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.”
“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”
— Helen Keller
I have great compassion for those facing imminent death, and the loved ones who suffer with them. I believe pain management is the only acceptable role for the medical profession when treatment and cure are not possible. To expedite the process, though it may seem compassionate, is actually both selfish and arrogant. And to allow unnatural termination for emotional reasons — well, that’s like boarding a train knowing the bridge is out ahead. We may try to put on the brakes, but our own momentum might well carry us into the abyss.
Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the only countries currently allowing non-terminal euthanasia, and now Belgium is considering an amendment granting that “right” to dementia sufferers and children. The progression is not surprising, nor will it be when the elderly, infirm, poor and otherwise marginalized are “compassionately euthanized” for the “betterment” of society.
While Vermont law-makers debate legislation in support of physician assisted suicide, I would urge them to consider that we are stronger — we are better than this!
Cynthia DeKett lives in Wheelock.