By Mark David Blum, Esq.
A terminally ill 28 year old bank manager wants to have her breathing and feeding tubes removed. Suffering from paralysis from a massive brain tumor, the patient wants to die. Her very Christian family refuses to allow it on the basis that doing so is a sin.
The other day, I learned something interesting from my always fascinating walking encyclopedia friend about the history of suicide being a sin under Christian dogma. Apparently, in its’ infancy, Christianity was oversold in that converts were told that awaiting them is heaven and sitting at the knee of God. Heavin was sold as such an awesome place that early followers would begin to ponder why bother staying in this life if the next is so wonderful. If you recall, life at the time was pretty harsh. So in an effort to be with God and in His good graces, lots of early Christians began to commit suicide. To stop the obvious stupidity of doing so, the Church introduced the sin of suicide and its everlasting commitment to purgatory.
If this banker were Terry Schiavo (remember her?) there would be no religious conversation. Yes, organized religion would be banging the drum to keep this woman alive. But the argument would be one about the so-called ‘Right to Life’.
The record should reflect that there is no such thing as a “Right to Life”. The Constitution is silent on the subject; in fact giving government the right to take your life if they use due process (whatever that means). Since there is no such “right”, claims thereof should be summarily disregarded.
Antonin Scalia, a Justice of the United States Supreme Court and those who would stand with him philosophically, belong to a class of persons known as Strict Constructionists (his opinion in Bush v. Gore, notwithstanding). Their position is that if it is not written down in the Constitution, there is no right. They come from a school of thought that holds that the only rights and privileges enjoyed by the People are those specifically enumerated in the Constitution. Strict Constructionists will tell you, for example, that there is no constitutional right to “privacy” because “privacy” is not a specifically identified right. If so and if they stay true to their ideologies, then they cannot lay claim to stopping abortion or preventing assisted suicide because of the “right to life”. It is found in the Declaration of Independence but that document is not the law of the land.
Assuming for the sake of discussion that there is a Right to Life, we still are faced with the next question; that being whether having a RIGHT to life requires MANDATORY life. You may have a right to demand to live, but can the State or any person require you to live against your will? In what we witnessed in Florida and now here in New York, we see the culture of Life shifting from one of a Right to one of Mandatory.
Sure, the two women have a right to live; as does any one of us. No State, no Federal Government, no hospital, and no family member should have the power, the right, or the moral imperative to insist anyone live against their will. Anybody who steps up and demands that a citizen live against their will is a Fascist and a clear and present danger to the United States and the ideals upon which it rests.
A lot of non Christians and just people find suicide offensive and work hard to prevent it. Kudos to them. Perhaps there is value in saving a life. But in the end, walking against suicide, raising money to prevent suicide, and teaching on suicide prevention have to be limited to advocacy positions. As individual persons, whether we live our die should always be our prerogative and not that of anybody else.
What makes this whole matter all the more worse is how this woman has to die. It is not illegal in New York to commit suicide. Whom would you arrest? What is illegal in New York and under federal law would be for anybody to assist this poor woman in the process of ending her life. There are slippery slope arguments to be made in every direction for this issue. But in all the jibberjabber, a patient suffering gets lost and the pain continues.
No one should have to starve to death. We should be able to access the best that Medicine has to offer. But those who advocate the policy of Mandatory Life have denied all Americans access to comfort and an end of pain. It is the Randall Terrys and Jerry Falwells and Michelle Bachmans and Mitt Romneys of the world who are to blame endless suffering from starvation and a slow and withering death. The suffering Americans must endure from the policy of Mandatory Life should be upon their consciences. I recall hearing how Terry Schiavo’s suffering was akin to that of Jesus on the Cross. That would be true if it had been the disciples that had hung him there and left him to die. Dr. Kevorkian sat in prison and Terry Schiavo starved to death; all because of the Christian takeover of this social policy. This battle that raged in the streets of Pinellas Park, Florida was not a confrontation between Republican and Democrat. It was not a struggle between Conservative and Liberal. It was then and continues through today to be an epic struggle between the forces of Humanity and the forces of Religion. Call it the Crusades or the Inquisition if you will. The behaviors are the same.
Yet all of that pales in comparison to the takeover of the party by Christian fundamentalists. Republican Presidents have furthered the tradition of Republican intervention in State’s Rights in recent times. When Oregon passed an assisted suicide law, the religious zealots in the Republican party implored and pressured the President to take action to prevent that law. When California and nine other States pass Medical Marijuana laws, Republican / Christian leaders overrule the State and prosecute people otherwise behaving lawfully. All of it set to advance not a political agenda, but a religious one.
As for my (few remaining) Christian friends exorcise your demon from our government. I would encourage them to honor their God and to follow His ways in whatever means and manner they see fit. Let them evangelize in every Middlesex, village, and farm. But, Christians should keep their faith in their homes, in their churches, and in how they live their lives. The moment they cross the line and insist that I live my life the same way, Christians are no longer the religion of the Prince of Peace, but rather the ugly scourge of Hades. The contract made by Republicans was supposed to be one with America, not with the Christian church. John Danforth, a former Senior Republican Senator and US Ambassador to the United Nations has said, "Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians."
Ours is no longer a nation divided by two political parties. We have become a nation divided along the lines of Religionists and Free Thinkers. One group wants to compel you to follow their concepts of morality and the other does not. It is no longer about economic theory but rather about power and control. The party of Lincoln and God insists on saving your soul against your will. They are the new enemies of freedom and liberty.
New York needs to join the modern era and let People decide their own fate. Though in a permanent paralyzed state and without a glimmer of hope, this woman did manage to bring forth a mirror for us all to see the insanity and chaos of our current thinking. Hypocrisy became the buzzword these past days. All this woman wants is to starve to death in her room. Of course it would be nice if doctors could just give her a shot. But we cannot tolerate that.
No parent is ever prepared to bury a child. As children, we all grow up and know somewhere in the back of our minds that one-day we will have to bury our parents. But, as parents, there is no room in our conscious existence that could possibly prepare us for the horror of having to bury a child. These parents in this New York case and even in the Schaivo matter have mixed up their love for their daughter with their own selfish inability to let go.
It is my hope that both of these cases have awakened our soul with the energy of a swift kick in the pants. From Michigan to the Mexican Border, we have become a nation that cares more about what our children are watching on television than whether their schools are educating them, whether the food they eat is safe, or whether they will have any civil liberties left when they mature.