It is hard to miss the fact that the holiday season is upon us. I know the idyllic greeting card view of the world that Christmas is a season of joy, family, friends and celebration.
I also understand the reality of the dark side of the season: a time of sadness of depression and loneliness. As a community the school district and several other agencies became concerned and took action around the alarming loss of life last spring.
They are perhaps holding their collective breath as we approach a traditionally difficult season for some vulnerable individuals. This and other trends brings me to a concern: I am afraid that the promotion of the “right to die movement” or as it is currently described as “death with dignity” legislation, sends mixed messages about the value of human life.
The philosophy that has been called the culture of death is pervasive in many areas of our culture and at so many levels.
Historically, the right to die movement that started in Europe was to end suffering of terminally ill patients. Sadly it has devolved into the practice of determining which lives have value.
In the Netherlands dementia patients are euthanized, and the “Groningen protocol” established in 2004 assists in a decision-making process to end the life of disabled babies without fear of litigation.
In Belgium, organs are harvested from euthanasia patients and 32 percent of all euthanasia deaths are without consent. In recent months a British mom received the court’s permission to euthanize her own autistic daughter. The result John Stonestreet wrote, “The right to die soon becomes the duty to die.”
There is no question the use of words is important in marketing ideas; someone pointed out that selling water with gas is far less appealing than calling it sparkling water.
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, understood this. That’s why there are several of her quotes you will never see on clinic walls, such as “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
It appears by design the language of death is misleading. For example, substitute the word choice for infanticide may sound good, even desirable, but it does not reflect the result.
In the parlance of death with dignity, the phrase “on your own terms” has an independent ring to it. But it means nothing. It is an illusion. If we were in control, would we choose debilitating depression, strangling addiction or painful illness? It has nothing to do with our terms.
The idea that “ending one’s own life” has no effect on anyone but the individual, assumes we live and act in a vacuum. That our lives touch no one is totally without basis in fact, or in human experience.
The Christian poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
I have mixed two separate, yet intertwined issues that brings into focus the devaluing of life that makes the final solution more appealing to some.
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.