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Monsignor Yennock on End of Life Issues - Homily from May 19, 2019

May 20, 2019

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

MAY 19, 2019

END OF LIFE ISSUES

 

PAUL AND BARNABAS SAID TO THE DISCIPLES: “IT IS NECESSARY FOR US TO UNDERGO MANY HARDSHIPS BEORE WE ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” (Acts. 14:26) THE DYING PROCESS COULD BE ONE OF THOSE HARDSHIPS.   

 

SOMEONE SAID: TO THE WELL ORGANIZED MIND, DEATH IS THE NEXT GREAT ADVENTURE. HOW DO WE PREPARE FOR THAT GREAT ADVENTURE? SOONER OR LATER YOU AND I HAVE TO EXPERIENCE THE DYING PROCESS. SOONER OR LATER THOSE WHO ARE CLOSE TO US HAVE TO EXPERIENCE THE DYING PROCESS. 

HOW DO WE BEST CARE FOR THE DYING? WE ALL WANT THE VERY BEST FOR THOSE WE LOVE. WE WANT THE BEST FOR OURSELVES. THANK GOD FOR THE MEDICAL PROFESSION, FOR HOSPITALS AND NURSING HOMES FOR HOSPICE AND ADVANCES IN PAIN CONTROL. PEOPLE TODAY HAVE MUCH MORE PROFESSIONAL CARE AVAILABLE THAN MOST OF OUR ANCESTORS.

VERY OFTEN PALLIATIVE CARE IS OFFERED IN A HOSPITAL OR A NURSING HOME. THIS MEANS THAT A PATIENT IS GIVEN HYDRATION AND NUTRITION AND IS MADE COMFORTABLE. AGGRESSIVE TREATMENT IS STOPPED AND THE PERSON IS ALLOWED TO DIE PEACFULLY. THERE IS NO NEED FOR GUILT OR REMORSE.

WITH PALLIATIVE CARE SOME PATIENTS MAY DIE PEACEFULLY AT HOME, WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT PAIN, IN THE LOVING PRESENCE OF THEIR FAMILIES. THERE IS NO NEED FOR GUILT OR REMORSE.

WE MUST BE CLEAR ABOUT SOMETHING. PALLIATIVE CARE IS NOT AIMED AT KILLING A PERSON. USE OF PAIN MEDICATION IS NOT AIMED AT KILLING A PERSON. THIS IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PALLIATIVE CARE AND PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE WHICH IS INTENDED TO KILL.

 

ONE OF THE BASIC ETHICAL RULES OF MEDICINE IS PRIMUM NON NOCERE, FIRST DO NO HARM. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT MAKES A LAW PERMITTING THE MEMBERS OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION TO EXTEND ASSISTED SUICIDE TO THEIR PATIENTS THEY ARE VIOLATING THE BASIC RULE OF MEDICINE—DO NO HARM.

 

DOCTORS AND NURSES WHO REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN EUTHANASIA ARE SEEKING TO PRACTICE THE MEDICAL ART OF HEALING. THEY SEEK THE GOOD OF THE PATIENT THAT THEY HAVE TAKEN AN OATH TO SERVE. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT WHEN I AM IN A HOSPITAL BED I WANT TO KNOW THAT THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL WHO IS COMING TOWARD ME IS DEDICATED TO DOING NO HARM.

EUTHANASIA, OR MERCY KILLING IS THE DIRECT KILLING OF ONE PERSON BY ANOTHER FOR THE SAKE OF SOME PERCEIVED MEDICAL OR SOCIAL BENEFIT. “VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA” IS KILLING IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST TO DIE BY THE PATIENT HIMSELF OR SOMEONE ACTING ON HIS BEHALF.

“NON- VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA” IS THE KILLING OF A PERSON WITHOUT ANY REQUEST, BECAUSE THE DOCTOR HAS JUDGED THE PATIENT’S LIFE TO BE NO LONGER WORTH LIVING. THIS IS MOST TYPICAL IN CASES INVOLVING PATIENTS UNABLE TO CONSENT, SUCH AS THE COGNITIVELY DISABLED OR INFANTS.

“INVOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA” IS THE DIRECT KILLING OF A PERSON OVER HIS OBJECTIONS, BECAUSE THE DOCTOR HAS DECIDED THAT THE PATIENT’S BEST INTERESTS WARRANT DEATH.

IT HAS BEEN REPORTED THAT IN THE NETHERLANDS, A DOCTOR SURREPTITIOUSLY EUTHANIZED A NUN OVER HER OBJECTIONS, AND JUSTIFIED IT ON THE GROUNDS THAT ACCORDING TO HIS WAY OF THINKING, SHE WAS MISTAKEN ABOUT HER BEST INTERESTS DUE TO AN IRRATIONAL AND SUPERSTITIOUS COMMITMENT TO RELIGIOUS BELIEF.

A MEDICAL AID IN DYING ACT IS BEING CONSIDERED IN ALBANY. IN SPITE OF THE SANITIZED NAME OF THE BILL IT IS REALLY PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE. SOME LEGISLATORS THINK THAT DOCTORS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO AID TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS TO DIE BY LETHAL INJECTION OR SOME OTHER MEANS.

 

PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE SHOULD NEVER BE LEGALIZED. DYING PEOPLE WHO ASK FOR SUICIDE SHOULD RECEIVE SUICIDE-PREVENTION SERVICES LIKE ALL OTHER SUICIDAL PATIENTS. THEIR LIVES ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE AS THOSE WHO WANT TO LIVE.

 

PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE ABANDONS PEOPLE. ACTUALLY IT DOES NOT HELP ANYBODY. IT HELPS TO KILL PEOPLE WHO MIGHT EVENTUALLY REGAIN THE DESIRE TO LIVE.

 

A HOSPICE VOLUNTEER MET SUCH A PERSON. HIS NAME WAS BOB CONVEY. HE WAS DYING FROM ALS OR LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE. BOB SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN SUICIDAL FOR 2½ YEARS AFTER HEARING HIS DIAGNOSIS. BOB WANTED TO CALL JACK KEVORKIAN. HE WANTED KEVORKIAN TO TAKE HIM OUT. HAD HIS FAMILY COOPERATED, HE WOULD HAVE DIED BY MEDICAL ASSISTED SUICIDE. HIS FAMILY REFUSED TO GO ALONG WITH IT.

LATER, BOB SAID: “I EVENTUALLY CAME OUT OF THE FOG”.  HE SAID: “I AM SO GLAD TO BE ALIVE.” AFTER LIVING HAPPILY ON EARTH, FOR 18 MONTHS, WITH HIS FAMILY, HE DIED PEACEFULLY IN HIS SLEEP. NO GUILT, NO REMORSE.

ON OCTOBER 4, 2011 A LETTER WAS SENT TO THE BOSTON GLOBE. IT CAME FROM SOMEONE WHO LIVED IN OREGON WHERE ASSISTED SUICIDE IS LEGAL. JEANNETTE HALL, A CANCER SURVIVOR WAS TOLD SHE HAD SIX MONTHS TO LIVE. SHE ASKED HER DOCTOR FOR ASSISTED SUICIDE.

SHE SAID: I DIDN’T WANT TO SUFFER. I WANTED TO DO WHAT OUR LAW ALLOWED, AND I WANTED MY DOCTOR TO HELP ME. INSTEAD, HE ENCOURAGED ME NOT TO GIVE UP, AND ULTIMATELY I DECIDED TO FIGHT THE DISEASE. I HAD BOTH CHEMOTHERAPY AND RADIATION. I AM SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE! IT IS NOW 11 YEARS LATER. IF MY DOCTOR HAD BELIEVED IN ASSISTED SUICIDE, I WOULD BE DEAD. 

IF WE LEGALIZE ASSISTED SUICIDE, SOME PATIENTS WILL DIE WHO DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE. JEANNETTE HALL AND BOB CONVEY, WITH ENCOURAGEMENT, FOUND JOY IN LIVING. NO GUILT. NO REMORSE. WE DON’T HEAR THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY OFTEN ENOUGH IN THE DEBATE ABOUT PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE.

EFFORTS TO LEGALIZE ASSISTED SUICIDE IGNORE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PATIENTS TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS. ASSISTED SUICIDE IS NOT A CHOICE. IT IS THE END OF ALL CHOICES.

THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, AND THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK HAVE CONSISTENTLY OPPOSED LEGALIZATION OF ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA.

WHEN WE GIVE DOCTORS THE FREEDOM TO KILL, THE RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST WITH PATIENTS IS SHATTERED. IT CALLS INTO QUESTION THE PHYSICIANS DEVOTION TO THE PATIENT’S BEST INTERESTS.  

 

PHYSICIAN ASSISTED DEATH OR "AID IN DYING" IS LEGAL IN NINE JURISDICTIONS: CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, HAWAII, MONTANA, OREGON, VERMONT, WASHINGTON AND NEW JERSEY. THANK GOD IT WAS DEFEATED SO FAR IN MARYLAND, NEW MEXICO AND ARKANSAS.

 

IN SOME OF THOSE STATES THAT HAVE LEGALIZED ASSISTED SUICIDE, INSURANCE COMPANIES HAVE REFUSED TO PAY FOR COSTLY MEDICAL TREATMENT, BUT HAVE VOLUNTEERED TO PAY FOR LETHAL MEDICATION FOR SUICIDE. EVEN THE INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE COLLUDING WITH DEATH.

IN CANADA WHERE EUTHANASIA AND ASSISTED SUICIDE ARE LEGAL, EFFORTS ARE INCREASING TO NORMALIZE LETHAL INJECTION AS A NORMAL WAY OF DEATH. WELL OVER 3000 PEOPLE A YEAR ARE KILLED BY THEIR DOCTORS IN CANADA. IN BELGIUM AND THE NETHERLANDS THE MENTALLY ILL AND DEMENTIA PATIENTS ARE REGULARLY KILLED FOR THE ASKING.

ACCORDING TO THE PROFESSIONALS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF PERSONS WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS SUFFER FROM TREATABLE MENTAL ILLNESS, INCLUDING CLINICAL DEPRESSION. IT HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED THAT THE DESIRE FOR SUICIDE OFTEN DEPARTS ONCE MENTAL ILLNESS AND PAIN ARE EFFECTIVELY TREATED. THIS IS TRUE EVEN AMONG THE TERMINALLY ILL.

IN THE EARLY 1990’S MARIO CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK STATE CALLED TOGETHER A COMMITTEE TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE LEGALIZATION OF ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA. WHEN THE COMMITTEE STUDIED THE QUESTION CAREFULLY AND DISPASSIONATELY, THEY QUICKLY REALIZED THE DEADLY SOCIAL PATHOLOGIES THAT WOULD INEVITABLY ACCOMPANY LEGALIZATION.

THE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED AGAINST MAKING ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA LEGAL. THEY WERE CONVINCED THAT IF THEY MADE ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA LEGAL THEY WOULD BE OPENING THE DOOR TO: NEW FORMS OF FRAUD, ABUSE, COERCION AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE DISABLED, POOR, ELDERLY, AND MINORITIES; DEADLY FORMS OF COERCION BY INSURERS AND FAITHLESS FAMILY MEMBERS; CORROSION OF THE DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP; AN EVENTUAL SHIFT TO NONVOLUNTARY AND INVOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA; AND WIDESPREAD NEGLECT OF TREATMENT FOR MENTAL ILLNESS AND PAIN MANAGEMENT.

FURTHERMORE, LEGALIZING PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE AMPLIFIES THE RISK OF “ELDER ABUSE”. DID YOU KNOW THAT ELDER ABUSE IS RAPIDLY BECOMING AN EPIDEMIC WORLDWIDE? THERE HAVE BEEN EXAMPLES OF FAMILY MEMBERS PRESSURING VULNERABLE PATIENTS INTO CHOOSING SUICIDE.

THERE ARE MANY REASONS FOR OPPOSING PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE. POPE JOHN PAUL II GAVE THIS REASON: “A MAN, IF SERIOUSLY ILL OR DISABLED IN THE EXERCISE OF HIS HIGHEST FUNCTIONS, IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE A MAN. HE WILL NEVER BECOME A VEGETABLE OR AN ANIMAL. EVEN OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN THE CLINICAL CONDITION OF A VEGETATIVE STATE RETAIN THEIR HUMAN DIGNITY IN ALL ITS FULLNESS”.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS MAKES IT CLEAR THAT THE GOD OF CREATION HAS DOMINION OVER EVERY HUMAN LIFE FROM THE FIRST MOMENT OF CONCEPTION TO THE LAST MOMENT OF NATURAL DEATH.

WHENEVER WE HAVE A TEMPTATION TO CHANGE THE DESIGN OF CREATION, WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT THE GOD OF CREATION IS THE SAME GOD WHO MADE THE VASTNESS OF THE ALPS, THE ROCKIES THE ANDES AND THE HIMALAYAS; HE IS THE SAME GOD WHO KNOWS THE SILENCE OF JUNGLES THAT NO HUMAN HAS YET PENETRATED; WHO MADE ALL THE GALAXIES BEYOND OUR REACH; WHO GAVE GREAT TALENTS TO MOZART, BEETHOVEN, SHAKESPEARE, MILTON, DANTE AND LEGIONS OF OTHERS. THIS IS THE SAME GOD WHO IMAGINED ALL THE BEAUTIFUL MELODIES WE HAVE EVER HEARD AND MORE THAT WE HAVE NOT; WHO MADE ALL THE IMMENSE FORCES OF STORMS, EARTHQUAKES AND TUMULTUOUS OCEANS? THIS IS THE SAME GOD WHO INFUSED LIFE INTO THE EYES OF EVERY NEWBORN, AND LOVE INTO THE HEARTS OF ALL LOVERS. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THIS GOD MIGHT HAVE A DESIGN FOR THE DYING PROCESS THAT DOESN’T INCLUDE SUICIDE?