Choosing to end one’s life




Question:

I’ve been somewhat following this story of the young woman with, I think brain cancer is it, who is preparing to end her life in another month or so.I’m aware of all the church teachings saying we can’t end our lifes, even people who are brain dead and will never recover cannot go without some kind of feedings.

And I hear this woman talking about the pain she’ll otherwise endure. My first reaction to that was, look at how Christ suffered, on the cross, He experienced pain. Then I think, He hung on the cross alive for not more than three hours. And whatever he endured from the 40 lashes only hours before that.

That’s less than 24 hours of physical pain that Christ experienced. People who have brain or other cancers or terminal illnesses may feel excrutiating pain 24/7 for months and no treatment of any sort cures their cancer or ailment, pain meds might give them 10% less pain. Is it a church mandate that people must endure excrutiating pain 24/7 for months when terminally ill just to die anyway? Sometimes I think I would be better to be in a coma with no brain activity at all for two years and exist on a feeding tube rather than spend one month with cancer and excrutiating pain for 24/7 for months.

Actually, I think I’d prefer to die by being experiencing excrutiating pain by being nailed to a cross for 3 hours rather than spend 3 months in excrutiating pain this young woman will endure.

Answer

Catholic teaching on the proper response to the pain and suffering of someone who is terminally ill is really quite simple. We know that nothing can be done with the intention of ending the life of a human being, no matter what the level of pain or the estimate time left prior to death occurring.However there is nothing to prevent comfort care for that person including medication to relieve pain and suffering. Ethical pain relief treatment is not wrong while the use of palliative care for the purpose of ending someone’s life is killing and a mortal sin.

The Church therefore does NOT mandate that a patient must endure excruciating pain but at the same time mandates respect for that person’s life including nothing being done to prematurely end that person’s life.

On the subject of Christ’s death, you are totally incorrect. It is hard to imagine that you would compare the sufferings of Christ with those of a human being who is not the Son of God, is a sinner by virtue of being born with original sin and does have the ability to avail himself of treatments designed to alleviate suffering.

Christ died in reparation for the sins of all men even though He himself, the Son of God, was guilty of nothing.

I suggest you think instead of this reflection by St. Francis deSales:

“When Saint Charles was dying he had the picture of the dead Christ brought to him, so that he could die happily in the thought of his Savior’s death. And this is really the remedy for all those who fear death: to think often of Him Who is our life, and never to think of one without the other. ”

Answer by Judie Brown





8 comments

  1. Dstorm00 Reply

    Remember, Christ was God AND Perfect man. He felt EVERYTHING PERFECTLY. The Roman guards were surprised he survived the scourging, let alone the crucifixion. He was alive as long as he needed to be.

  2. x Reply

    that article writes: humans who do “have the ability to avail himself of treatments designed to alleviate suffering”……not all people can avail of these treatments eg: the developing world. That said i believe we have the ability through charity and ethical medical research to bring these treatments to ease suffering to most people and that it should be our priority over enabling the suffering to die.

  3. Diyosa Reply

    What will happened to the Soul of someone who committed suicide after murdering somebody? Is there Salvation for this person?

  4. Mark Reply

    “Actually, I think I’d prefer to die by being experiencing excrutiating pain by being nailed to a cross for 3 hours rather than spend 3 months in excrutiating pain this young woman will endure.”

    Be careful what you wish for! You have no idea how cruel, brutal, unequaled was the suffering of your Savior in order to pay for your sins! Christ was blameless! Our sufferings are welldeserved because of our wretchedness! How dare you underestimate the incomparable suffering of God for love of us!

    I think it was St. Faustina who said that it is better to suffer for fifteen years on earth than spend fifteen minutes in purgatory. Relate this to the suffering of Christ which is payment for our hell…

    Be careful what you wish for…

  5. Mary Damiano Reply

    Is it then a sin (mortal or otherwise) to enter a patient into hospice, which means comfort care only???

  6. Rechtsaußen Kerl Reply

    Totally disagree. I’m a devout Catholic, and if I was diagnosed with Cancer and I knew it to be terminal. I would refuse all chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to end my life as rapidly as possible. If I had locked in syndrome or in a coma I wouldn’t think twice about the ventilator being switched off. Judie Brown what gives you the authority to speak on behalf of the Holy See?

  7. Mary Wyant Reply

    If someone chooses to go off dialysis and dies week later he had ileostomy 2010 — Massive heart attack 2011— kydney failure and then dialyysis 2013 -hospital terribe cramps from dialysis then had leg of becuse of veins etc was 86 -he asked about heaven Dr told him this was not suicide–I took him home -he died in 2 days with hospice care and me. Weloved each other so much. God Bless him !

  8. Chris Cornish Reply

    To this question I ask this. We hear of many Catholics in the Middle East suffer persecution and such that we thought not possible in this age. If one we faced with the option of denouncing the True Faith or drinking hemlock to avoid denying the Faith , where does the teaching of the Church instruct us?

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