The gift of life in the face of death
In one of his last public statements, Cardinal Bernardin wrote to the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. He urged them not to create a "right" to assisted suicide, because doing so would "endanger society and send a false signal that a less than 'perfect' life is not worth living."
Many share Cardinal Bernardin's conviction. People who are elderly and seriously ill oppose assited suicide more strongly than young and able-bodied people do. Terminally ill patients seldom ask for help to commit suicide. Those who do are generally suffering from depression and other problems for which help is available.
Many patients--even many doctors--do not realize that medicine has taken enormous strides in controlling pain and other symptoms, so that no one needs to die in terrible pain. When people are loved and cared for, when they receive good pain control and the emotional and spiritual support they need, they love life in its final earthly stage.
But they cannot handle the problems of dying all by themselves. Certainly not in a society leaping to offer them lethan drug overdoses instead.
We need to listen to terminally ill patients and their families. And they need what any of us may need at difficult times--the love and support of people who know they really matter.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago shared his death voyage wiith us in a wonderful book he called the "Gift of Peace." Though a religious leader of deep faith, he felt the shock and deep disappointment of coming face to face with death. But he also found a gift of peace, once he placed his life in God's hands:
Life takes on new meaning, and suddently it becomes easier to separate the essential from the peripheral...So often in the past I, like most of us, have struggled with what to say to people who are suffering. But since I was diagnosed as having cancer, words have come much more easily. So has the ability to know when to listen or to simply reach out my hand.
He reached out to many others suffering from serious illness, sharing their pain and offering God's peace. We, too, fear the pain and indignity of dying. We are afraid of becoming dependent. Afraid of being a burden on loved ones, of being abandoned or neglected. Perhaps even afraid of unwanted treatments that may only add to our suffering.
Today some people think the way to solve the problems of dying people is by cutting short their lives. They offer the seductive answer of a "quick and painless" death--through a lethal injection or drug overdose.
This is called euthanasia and assisted suicide. It gives into fear, and destroys the life of someone who most needs our unconditional love. It is a false solution.
If you wish further information, please contact the Respect Life Office by E-mail and include your name, phone number, address and parish.
Together we will support life in all its stages and we will make a difference!