The last stages of life serve as a vital “wrap-up” period that provides opportunities for important developments in relationships with family and friends, said Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., ethics expert and co-founder of the Center for Life Principles, at a British Columbia pro-life conference on Saturday. He said the end of life period should never deliberately be cut short.
Speaking at the International Pro-Life Conference held in Vancouver November 16-18, Fr. Spitzer identified dominant myths put forward by the pro-euthanasia movement — arguments, he said, that prey on the vulnerable elderly who fear suffering and don't want to be a burden.
“The final six months of life frequently see a significant improvement in reconciliation, in relationships with family and friends, in the passing on of wisdom and a personal legacy to family, and in a great investment in the relationship with God,” Fr. Spitzer said. The assumption that terminally ill patients have a low quality of life is simply not accurate, he said, when a narrow definition of life quality based on physical health and freedom of movement is expanded to include a much greater emphasis on relationships.
He pointed out that while euthanasia advocates frequently rely on the argument of inadequate pain treatment to promote legal assisted suicide and euthanasia, in fact research has shown that 96% of terminal pain can be adequately controlled through advances in morphine use, without significant loss of consciousness.
According to a report by the World Health Organization, 97% of requests for assisted suicide were withdrawn after the patients received adequate pain management and treatment for temporary depression.
Legal euthanasia and assisted suicide will create a culture of suicide, Fr. Spitzer warned, as life value is measured more and more in terms of physical health and independence.
“Young people will hear this as a legitimate solution to pain and suffering,” he said. “Schools will carry this. What becomes legal becomes normative, what becomes normative becomes moral.”
Fr. Spitzer said it is imperative that governments resist the push to legalize euthanasia, despite pressure from activist organizations who claim euthanasia should be a personal choice.
“There is a basic principle at work here. One person's option can — and will — become another person's duty to die.”
President of Gonzaga University and founder of the Institute of Professional Ethics in Seattle and the Institute on Character Development at Seattle University, Fr. Spitzer is a world-renowned speaker, author and lecturer.
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