“Die with dignity” is the controversial message being given to East Boston residents this month, garnering criticism from many religious leaders.
Part of a nationwide campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide, the message is plastered on a billboard, purchased by the Final Exit Network – a national, volunteer-run nonprofit organization.
The ad states, “Irreversible illness? Unbearable suffering? Die with Dignity.”
Calling euthanasia “the ultimate right of the 21st century” and comparable even to the women’s suffrage movement in the 20s, the network believes that the right to die is “a basic human right…when they suffer from a fatal or irreversible illness or intractable pain, when their quality of life is personally unacceptable, and the future holds only hopelessness and misery.”
Until laws are in place to protect the right of every adult to a peaceful, dignified death, the website claims they will be there to support those who need relief from their suffering today through informational guides and instructions.
But FEN makes clear that they do not encourage anyone to end their life, nor do they actively assist in a person’s death or provide the means to do so. They simply “support them when medical circumstances warrant their decision.”
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To be accepted into their “Exit Guide Program,” a set of criteria must be met, which includes: being cognitively functional and physically strong enough to perform the required tasks; having an incurable condition which causes intolerable suffering; and getting approved by their medical director.
But rather than a right to die, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, believes FEN is supporting a “right to kill,” according to The Boston Pilot.
“Dying well always involves dying in the time that God appoints, rather than in the time that we establish,” he said. “Patients should never be offered immoral choices, such as euthanasia or assisted suicide.”
Instead, Pacholczyk stated that end-of-life planning should be patient-centered, seeking to assure that reasonable treatment options were made available and utilized, while unreasonable or unduly burdensome treatment options were avoided.
BP reported that the National Catholic Bioethics Center published “A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions,” outlining guidelines for making decisions and describing the redemptive nature of suffering.
“By virtue of our being made one with Christ in Baptism, we can join our suffering to that of Our Savior on the Cross at Calvary and thereby assist in His work of salvation for the entire world,” the guide highlights.
“The suffering of illness and dying brings the Catholic a grace-filled opportunity to offer prayer for oneself, for loved ones, and for the whole human race. Christ is with us during our illness and shares in our suffering as we share in His.”
The guide also addresses those who “wrongly believe” that God does not care whether they shorten their lives.
“The immorality of harming the great good of human life, however, should be apparent even to those without faith.”
Still, for many who firmly desire “relief from their current suffering,” Final Exit Network purports to serve as a “support” system.
It is the only organization in the United States that gives instructions to individuals who are not considered “terminally ill” (those who have six months or less to live) to hasten their deaths.
Their slogan is “Final Exit Network will serve many whom organizations may turn away,” assisting those who suffer from illnesses such as cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Stroke, AIDS, and other “lesser-known but serious ailments.”
While the network believes in “death with dignity,” the Most Rev. Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, expressed that death, in any circumstance could never be dignified.
In his annual Easter address, Jensen criticized campaigners for euthanasia.
“I can take the idea of a heroic death, a quiet death, an early death, even at a stretch a peaceful death – but ‘death with dignity’ just seems like a cover up, like wishful thinking” the archbishop shared.
Pointing to the most undignified death suffered by Christ, he revealed, “I can’t think of one worse than crucifixion. It was capital punishment designed to humiliate and intimidate.”
For Christians, Jensen believed that the real hope is beyond death in the victory of Jesus Christ.
“There is nothing dignified about pain, helplessness, loss and anxiety of death. It is undignified. It takes God’s noble, glorious creation of a human being and turns us back to dust,” he said.
“But this I do know – and you can know it too – my Savior Jesus has walked this way ahead of me. He has walked it in the worst of all ways. And I know – that out of my indignity will come the glory of being with him forever.”
The right-to-die movement is currently legalized in Oregon, Montana, and Washington state. Efforts are also being made in Vermont, with the newly appointed governor vowing to sign a physician-assisted suicide bill into law.