Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2013 Nancy Virden
In 2005, Terry Schivo was the center of an international debate over human dignity, quality of life, and the power of medicine. On permanent life support, and severely brain-damaged with no chance of recovery, her parents insisted Terry live, while her husband claimed she had previously asked to be allowed to die if this should happen to her. Her husband eventually won the battle.
For thousands of years no one survived with a dead brain. Suddenly we have the technology, and Do Not Resuscitate forms and Living Wills. These are being signed and filed into legal systems. How do we know if living for living’s sake is not what we want?
What a devastating decision – either to allow a loved one to die or let them live in a state we dread for ourselves. Life is sacred, however the platitude I have heard frequently is to just trust God. Tell that to families of the painfully and terminally ill. Say that to the parent of a child living as a vegetable. Try to wrap up anyone’s sorrow into such an easy blanket. It does not work. It does not work because science can keep us breathing and hearts beating long after we would have died naturally. Science says it can freeze us and maybe we can live forever!
Why does this matter to me twelve years after Terry Schivo’s death? It matters because medical and legal systems are now promoting suicide. Talk about going too far! We are talking about legal doctor prescribed death!
Our emotions can get the better of us when we hear stories about people like Terry, or those who are going to die anyway. When someone chooses the date of their death, we sympathize with their pain and perhaps wonder if we would do the same.
Emotions rarely guide us well.
According to a survey of 15,800 physicians, 40% have biases against patients with certain health problems. At the top of the list are those with emotional problems (62%).
Remember when we used to automatically throw persons with emotional “problems” (no doubt mental illness in most cases) into institutions and lock them away? Instead of this society becoming more enlightened and educated, we have become so cruel as to pass “End of Life Option” laws. Do not be fooled, these measures do not protect vulnerable people.
In California for instance, the law states that the Public Health Department must investigate the details of a patient’s death after he or she died. However, that information is not accessible to authorities. While there are safeguards against only one doctor or family member making all the decisions, there is no protection from a biased or even murderous doctor who has ultimate autonomy when prescribing an aid-in-dying drug. As long as the doctor dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s, he or she is safe from criminal liability.
Also in California, witnesses are required to be present at the patient’s initial signing of a request to die. Neither of these witnesses have to be doctors or mental health professionals. After official steps have been taken, and after a patient has possession of the aid-in-dying drug, he or she is to sign a final attestation form stating a true desire to die. Again, after the person’s death, the form is to be given to the prescribing doctor. No witnesses are required to attend the signing. No witnesses means coerced or fraudulent signatures have a pass.
There are more problems with the law, such as the doctor can choose whether to send the patient to a mental health care provider for assessment. Laws like this do not effectively shut the door on assisted-suicide or euthanasia. In fact, they are a step closer to what some people want – the right to decide another person’s death.
An activist group now calling themselves Compassion and Choices (simply a cover-up name for the more recognizable Hemlock Society), is arguing more types of people should qualify for legally prescribed death. Big surprise – those with long-term mental illness are among those named. (Also seniors with “terminal old age”).
My heart breaks for the vulnerables. Yes, I am one of them and woefully aware of the power of stigma and bias. As one with a long-term mental illness, I see it all the time. In friendships, with strangers, in church, at the hospital, in the doctor’s office – even in (rare) impatience coming from therapists. The process of retraining the mind is long and arduous. People don’t like it, and expect me (and millions of others) to snap out of it instantly.
The wanted versus unwanted message poured down our throats since Roe vs. Wade has affected us at deep levels. Even young people are dying by suicide in rising numbers. How, in the throes of desperation and despair, is one to find reason to live when the world is screaming, “Go ahead, decrease the population. You are costing us too much. You make us uncomfortable.” It’s as if courts and doctors are standing below a high-rise and shouting, “Jump!”
It is unnatural to take human life no matter what the Hemlock Society wants to call it. Absent of life support extending a dead person’s life, snatching control from God’s hands and deciding today is the day, is to deny his timing and sovereignty. Is he big enough to help us face another hour? Is he wise enough to get us through the next ten years? Is his purpose and plan thwarted because we suffer? I’m personally counting on no.
It is still insensitive at best to tell someone thinking about suicide that he or she should just trust God. Trust yes, “just” nothing. It is hard work climbing out of despair.
If you are struggling with the value of your life, pray, seek human support, keep looking until you find someone who gets it and can help. Take one step then another then another. If you are in danger of suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
God will see us through. One day we will rejoice in heaven. in his time.
Today’s Helpful Word
“God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture by GESINEK on rgbstock.com