Hawaii recently became the fifth state in five years to pass a so-called “death with dignity” statute to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Gov. David Ige (D-HI) signed the Our Care, Our Choice Act on April 5, allowing terminally ill patients “who are mentally competent and within 6 months of death to legally obtain a prescription medication to end their life in a humane and dignified manner.”
The recent spike in “death with dignity” legislation comes at a time when 57 percent of Americans say doctor-assisted suicide is “morally acceptable” — an all-time high, according to Gallup.
Advocates of such laws falsely equate “dignity” with the freedom to choose a most undignified fate for themselves or their loved ones, and as the latest polls indicate, the deceptive rhetoric has been effective in persuading American voters.
This popular but misguided view of human dignity has played out tragically in the U.K. in recent months — first, in the case of Charlie Gard, and now, with Alfie Evans.
Gard, an 11-month-old suffering from a rare mitochondrial disease, died last summer after doctors deemed his condition incurable and successfully fought to let him “die with dignity” by taking him off life support against his parents’ wishes.
Evans, a 23-month-old from Liverpool with a condition similar to Gard’s, is now facing the same fate after a U.K. Court of Appeals ruled against his parents’ request to bring him home from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
American Catholics should be deeply disturbed by these cases, and they should be doing everything in their power to stop the United States from heading in the same direction.
Robbie Kramer, a Catholic mother from Kansas, is a fine example of an everyday citizen doing her part to defend eternal truths about the dignity of the human person. Mrs. Kramer, whose 26-year-old son Keith suffers from a condition very similar to that of Alfie Evans, posted a video to YouTube last month in which she begged Alfie’s doctors to reconsider what a dignified life could look like for him.
Unlike Alfie, Keith Kramer’s parents were allowed to bring him home and care for him for the duration of his life, which doctors estimated would last only 14 months. Instead, he has spent almost three decades in the loving care of his prayerful family.
Robbie Kramer told me that Keith has brought her family “closer to God than anything else has in this world.”
“Some see a loss of worthiness if one can not contribute to the world, if one can not interact within the confines of the doctors’ understanding,” she explained. “This is the major error of our times — we seem to think we must be in control of everything and everyone leaving out the One who actually is in control. There is no dignity in this pretense — none.”
Kramer added that those who advocate for prematurely ending the lives of disabled or elderly people might do so in the name of compassion, but they “have a misguided understanding of love.”
“They lash out against God and everything that is truth, goodness and beauty because they themselves need it most and have lost the ability to see it,” she said.
As the culture of death continues to claim more and more victims through euthanasia and abortion, Catholics must embrace their unique and critical role as bearers of truth and light.
The Church, in her infinite wisdom and mercy, has supplied us with the moral tools to lay the “death with dignity” debate to rest, and it is imperative that we do so in whatever ways we are able. Public officials, Church leaders, and members of the media certainly have an important part to play, but ordinary Catholic citizens must not neglect their divine obligation to work and vote in favor of life.
For centuries, the Catholic Church has been a consistent leader in speaking out against injustices like slavery, abortion, eugenics, and euthanasia. During this primary season, refuse to settle for lukewarm candidates who have fallen prey to relativism.
Politicians who see room for compromise on an issue as precious as life do not deserve the Catholic vote.