A Christian response to “Drop dead disgrace” Editorial in Catholic Weekly, 25.5.2022.
What a disgraceful, vitriolic editorial is “Drop dead disgrace” (Catholic Weekly, 25 May) From the title to the picture of a young child holding an anti-Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) placard at the end of the article, it displays a total lack of empathy.
The unnamed author castigates NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns, both committed Catholics, for not doing more to scupper the VAD bill, describing their failure as “one of the most humiliating examples of meek acceptance of evil ever seen”. An incredible claim that, from any rational viewpoint, is blatantly untrue.
I suppose we should be thankful that the editorial did not openly advocate Perrottet and Minns be excommunicated.
The editorial portrays the NSW VAD law as imposing state-sanctioned killing. We will put aside for a moment the evil of Catholic sanctioned “killing” during the Crusades, in religious wars, the Inquisition, the burning of witches, the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, and the fact of the Catholic Church coverup of paedophile priests that led in turn to the tragic suicides of so many of their innocent victims.
A few facts…
- VAD is not killing. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Law is legislation to give a terminally ill person, who is already enduring suffering they find intolerable, their right to request assistance to end that suffering quickly and peacefully, at a time of their choosing.
- There is clear evidence that many patients given approval after their request for a VAD death, actually live longer and have a better end quality of life than those who do not request assistance. The VAD law provides peace of mind and is palliative in its own right. Many assisted deaths, even of a person wracked with cancer, are described as ‘beautiful’.
- Advocates for VAD choice respect the need for Palliative Care but recognise that PC can never provide the complete answer and VAD provides the additional option to avoid futile suffering. In Oregon USA, with a law for almost 25 years, 90% of patients using their Assisted Dying choice are already in some form of hospice or palliative care. Note that in Oregon one third of patients approved for assistance do not proceed to take their fatal medication – it is like having an insurance policy you hope you never need.
- For the Catholic Weekly to compare Voluntary Assisted Dying choice with “the consignment of ethnic groups to the concentration camps”, is quite frankly obscene. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the Holocaust and the agony inflicted on the Jewish community and others has no connection whatever with the Voluntary Assisted Dying end-of-life choice.
Any person who disagrees with the Voluntary Assisted Dying choice is perfectly free not to initiate the rigorous assessment process needed to access the VAD option, and is perfectly free to choose to accept all suffering that comes their way as they are dying.
Many people were heartened and admired the honesty of Dr Robert Olvera, a Harvard-educated physician in California, and what he stated prior to the passing of the End of Life Choice Bill in California,
“As a Catholic and a physician, I feel compelled to dispel the myths about these bills perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, some disability groups, and the American Medical Association (AMA).
My 25-old daughter Emily Rose desperately pleaded for this option during the final few agonizing months of her life last spring when she suffered in horrific pain from terminal leukemia, despite getting great home hospice and palliative care.
As a Catholic, I pray to God for the passage of the bills authorizing medical aid in dying. These laws would ensure that dying Americans have the option to pass peacefully in their sleep, suffer less, and spare themselves the pain of a lengthy and prolonged death that my daughter had to endure.”
Personally, as a Christian, I found it informative that Dr Olvera was praying to God that the VAD Bill be passed, and those opposing VAD were praying that it not pass. Olvera’s prayer was answered, and the End of Life Choice Bill passed in 2015. May we draw a conclusion from this?
Equally informative is the fact that the California Bill was signed by Gov. Brown, a committed Catholic, who had formerly trained as a Jesuit, and as Governor he actually had the right to veto this Bill. Instead, in a very rational and compassionate letter, he concluded –
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Religion, and the Christian Bible have long been used to support opposition to change, just as it was used to resist the abolition of slavery, university education and voting rights for women, use of pain relief for women in childbirth, and in attempting to prove that Earth was the centre of the universe. History has shown this use of the Bible to be inappropriate.
A significant majority of Christians, including Catholics, believe the time has come to put love and compassion for a fellow human ahead of theological differences of opinion. This is why VAD legislation has been passed in every Australian state, and the VAD choice accepted by Australians generally. We would argue that Perrottet and Minns both acted responsibly – speaking against the Bill as they were entitled to do – but not abusing their position and power to frustrate the democratic process.
To reiterate – the key words are ‘voluntary’ and ‘choice’.
Ian Wood, Spokesperson for Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying. www.christiansforvad.org.au
Read more: Rev Michael Dowling and his address to South Australia Parliament in support of VAD as an end of life choice. https://christiansforvad.org.au/rev-michael-dowling-presentation-to-south-australian-mps/#more-735
Read more. Rev Cardy from NZ expresses his religious support for VAD
Read more: Rev Kilgour of NZ – Sermon in support of an assisted death after his nephew in Canada used MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying). https://christiansforvad.org.au/rev-craig-kilgour-new-zealand-sermon-my-nephew-had-an-assisted-death-in-canada-it-was-compassionate-it-was-humane-it-was-right-and-good/#more-560
Read more: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Capetown and his support for VAD as an end of life choice. https://christiansforvad.org.au/archbishop-desmond-tutu-gives-his-blessing-to-the-voluntary-assisted-dying-campaign-in-australia/#more-371