At the Catholic Herald, commentator Francis Phillips is concerned about the blossoming movement favoring euthanasia. He writes:
It strikes me that the push for euthanasia in this country is driven by a cadre of influential atheists with a fear of death for themselves and thus a sublimated death wish for others. They have an entirely pragmatic view of life; when someone feels, for whatever reason, that it no longer makes sense, why force them to go on living?
I think different people have different reasons. Many people are afraid of suffering. And the melodrama of modern media, from video games to sensational reporting to horror stories about medical malpractice all reinforce this fear of spectacle. Some people honestly do not want to lose their ability to care for themselves, to find their mind fading away, or to suffer in agony as cancer overtakes their bones and organs.
Of course, dying doesn’t have to happen this way. But the images of video game gore and the boogeystories of intense pain do little to calm this fear.
The real key, I think, is to begin to listen to people who are dying. And those in the movement who support an end to life. And find out if they are really afraid of death, or just intent on helping an aged parent or spouse avoid suffering.
Mr Phillips concludes:
Contrast it with the Holy Father’s words, “Those who practise mercy do not fear death”. This is not the false “mercy” of “mercy killing”; it is accompanying, supporting, a person approaching the end of their natural life. To watch over the dying is an act of Christian mercy that used to be practised by certain religious orders. Perhaps someone should start a new religious order for this purpose today?
There are religious orders who care for the dying. But I think we’re past the age in which every religious or spiritual solution is achieved by throwing celibate women at the problem. Why do people who care for the elderly and dying have to be vowed religious? I am sure the Little Sisters of the Poor would be very willing to form volunteers to do the basics of ministry. It’s not terribly hard. Discern with one’s spiritual director or pastor. Make a commitment to visit a care facility or hospice regularly. Visit one’s own relatives and neighbors who are in the denouement of their lives.
Part of the problem on the political front is the modern willingness to delegate difficult work to “specialists.” That’s not the way Pope Francis is pointing out. The solution isn’t about getting other people to do the work. If we notice a need, if we feel the nudge of grace, then we can likely count on the call being our own. Not that of a new religious order.