Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The loyalty to life

I do enjoy surprises. To the extent that I feel it has been a bad day if I do not get surprised at least once. It is one of the main reasons I love teaching – a young mind will always surprise you. Then there are the other kinds of surprises when 2, 3 or 4 ships of thought, that come from different directions, converge to form a “How wonderful!” or a “This is very sad.” The former is the triumph of virtue the later is when vice masquerades as a triumph of virtue.

Chesterton can hand you both in one breadth leaving you wondering where you left your socks.

Unfortunately for me today’s surprise was of the ugly kind.

This past weekend I began to re-read GKC’s Orthodoxy. I stopped when I came to the following passage, (Yes dear. I’ll mow the lawn now.).
“In all this I found myself utterly hostile to many who called themselves liberal and humane. Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man, who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the cross-roads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer's suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man's crime is different from other crimes--for it makes even crimes impossible.”

During a later web surf I came across a piece by Barbara Nicolosi, “…The flock has been bred as teeming little narcissist lambs who stubbornly consider themselves "special" no matter how mediocre their understanding and living out of their life of discipleship. We have a global pasture full of sheep pasturing themselves, with coats shamefully besmirched by loving their sins. They bleat defiance and pride of their filth, and insist that Jesus is indifferent to their degradation and shame. "Who knows, Jesus is probably just like us!" They don't know, and don't know that they don't know, or don't know, and don't care that they don't know.”

Then I came across this as I was rifling through a pile of old newspapers in school today.

An eighty year old woman had ‘DO NOT RESUSITATE’ tattooed on her chest. Here is a lady proudly wearing her sin. It is the sin of future suicide. Would Chesterton consider this or a living will as writing your suicide note well before you actually do it, or rather have someone else do it for you? Mr. Archer's suicidal automatic machines dressed as doctors or as judges. How does one enjoy life after writing that will? They are saying, “I will only play this game if I can do it on my own terms otherwise I quit!”

Does it matter if you pull the trigger or have someone else pull the plug? Is the later worse because the patient not only chooses to die but is too cowardly to do it themselves so they drag a willing second party into the act? The first submits to a “… refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life.” The second agrees that the patient’s existence is of no interest, no value, and the loyalty to life is now a legal document and no longer a spiritual force that must be protected, nurtured and preserved. For many the abundant life has come to mean a good hair day, stuff and the ability to still do the fandango.

As for me I took my medical card out of my wallet and wrote on the back, “You do not have my permission to kill me.”


Paulinus said...

You go too far.

Not to resuscitate, especially where resuscitation would be futile (and that is true in many of the frail elderly) may in fact be in accordance with moral law. It is very hard to balance preserving life and showing to the world that we value every human life as Catholics, and allowing a natural death.

Have you ever witnessed or attended the attempted resuscitation of the frail elderly? I have broken ribs in futile attempts to resuscitate elderly patients when they had, in truth, died. We have an obligation to prevent death where we can - we have no obligation to extend life beyond its natural span with futile resuscitation. If you don't believe me, try Pius XII:

"Normally one is held to use only ordinary means [to prolong life]—according to the circumstances of persons, places, times, and culture — that is to say, means that do not involve any grave burdens for oneself or another. A stricter obligation would be too burdensome for most men and would render the attainment of the higher, more important good too difficult".

Joe said...

Yes, you are morally correct, Paulinus. "DO NOT RESUSITATE" is fine, though I suspect the old woman trying to make a point may have intended "KEEP YOUR FEEDING TUBES OFF MY BODY - I'D RATHER STARVE MYSELF THAN LIVE AS AN INVALID"; but didn't have enough chest space for the tatoo and didn't know the difference.

Paulinus said...

I agree, the Living Will thing goes too far - in the UK they have no legal standing and you can't compel a physician to do anything which is against their conscience (nor can a doctor assault a capax patient when they express a wish not to be fed - for this you will face the wrath of the criminal law).

You are quite right, too, in pointing out the rhetoric behind these issue: if you don't want to be resuscitated (a perfectly acceptable thing when death is close through age, infirmity or terminal illness) then just tell your nearest and dearest.The tattoo is glorifying what John Paul the Great called the "culture of death"

It is tricky to balance our affirmation of God-given life with the need for some patients facing death to (as the RC chaplain at my hospital puts it)"Let go in love". After all, we affirm at Mass that Our Lord faced death: "a death he freely accepted"

BTW tattooing itself may be sinful:

If a tattoo or body piercing or other practices done for aesthetic reasons were to entail what most people would call mutilation, these things could be sinful. If a tattoo were particularly repulsive to most people, obtaining it could also be a violation of Christian charity.