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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reflections regarding SB 128 about doctor-assisted suicide

The legalization of physician- assisted suicide (SB 128) has arrived to the California State Senate and we must stop it from moving forward. 

This bill forces us to stop in the journey and seriously ask ourselves about the values we believe in, those that guide our decisions, and that we may consider fundamental for human coexistence.  How would we react if our father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother asked us on their hospice bed to facilitate things so that they can commit suicide?  In what situation are people that surround a terminally ill person that requests to die left?  Eventually, this law will affect us all and it’s very important that we oppose to it actively.  If it’s approved, we will all suffer the consequences. 

The strongest arguments to propose a new law are the individual rights of each person to make their own decisions, including the one to end their life and the second argument is compassion before the extreme pain of the terminally ill patient. 

I think it’s very important to affirm that what’s at stake in the middle of this controversy is the affirmation of what a human being is, what gives them their identity.  To the proponents of this bill, the human being is fundamentally a body with emotions, with psychological reactions and reason.  But to us, there are other aspects that identify us as human beings, such as our spirituality and our independence.  We are spiritual beings and we are beings in relationship.  I do not pretend to make a philosophical reflection about these topics but even since the Ancient Greeks it was well known that human beings are spiritual beings.  Even before having a religion, human beings are spiritual beings who find their meaning for life in profound values. 

As limited human beings (since we’re not gods) we are going to experience pain and suffering and those situations are not enough to justify a suicide.  From a spiritual dimension we can give every experience of pain a meaning.  Victor Frankl was a victim of the concentration camps of the Nazi regime, he learned that even that absurd pain humanizes when the victims are capable of finding a meaning.  His theories are organized today under the concept of “Logotherapy” which is not any type of religion, but a form of humanizing thought which is a more profound response to this simplistic model of understanding the human condition of the terminally ill patient. 

In addition the Church and society have accepted that alleviating the pain of the terminally ill patient is a priority.  Therefore, the idea is not about simply searching for pain, but on the contrary it must be avoided and when this is not possible, softened so that the patient in their terminal situation does not suffer it in an excessive manner.  Currently, palliative aids for pain are very effective; including the use of morphine or other painkillers, even when they indirectly influence in shortening the life of the terminally ill patient are morally justified.  Therefore compassion before pain does not justify doctor assisted suicide. 

Though we all aspire to an individual liberty, we do not stop being interdependent beings, we need one another.  The uncompromising defense of the autonomy of decisions of a terminally ill person is also a deceiving way of defending what does not have defense.  If truly the decisions of each person did not affect the whole human family we would not be discussing this.  Then, in all areas of the defense of individual liberty it would be good to accept all forms of suicide, including with the teenager that suffers depression or mental illnesses.  But, how do we ask a doctor to assist you in ending a life, when he or she made a promise to defend life?  His or her individual liberty is being affected, the same as that of all the family members and friends who are going to experience the trauma of testifying that a loved one ended his/her life.  It would suffice to ask those who have suffered the suicide of a family member or close friend if their liberty was affected or not.  A few days ago a mother narrated to me the terrible depression symptoms her son suffered, many years after finding his dead father, who had committed suicide. 

It’s widely proven that suicidal attempts in most cases, proceed from clinical depression situations, and when treated and healed, the suicidal desires disappear.  Therefore the suicide attempt is a call for help to the human family who begins with the close family and friends. The patient is in search of a human contact, a relationship.   This is a recognized affirmation by the experts in mental health. 

The worst side of this problem is like always, the victims will be the poorest, those who don’t have the means to pay for medical services, as the large insurance companies or even family members with limited moral values or with other unmentionable interests will execute some form of pressure so that terminally ill patients opt for assisted suicide, which is cheaper and less tricky.  This is not a theory; it’s something that’s been proven broadly in areas where this law is in effect. 

This space is short for a major reflection but, please educate your conscience and oppose this law.  Call your legislator, act in a responsible manner before this attempt against liberty and against humanity. 

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