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The final enemy

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I'm not sure how our society ever got to a place where we actually vote on things like the definition of marriage, who qualifies as a human person, and when life begins or ends. It seems there is no limit to our arrogance. Now we're voting on whether a doctor should be legally permitted to prescribe drugs to deliberately end a person's life.

Oh, I know, the prescription has to be "requested" by an adult patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, one which is likely to end his or her life within six months. At least that is how the proposed law is intended to operate. But just think for a moment about the possibilities that exist if a law like this doesn't end up working the way it is supposed to.

It is true that people suffer terrible illnesses. Often these illnesses are accompanied by pain, loneliness, and fear. But pain, loneliness, and fear can be treated -- even if the underlying illnesses can't.

Life and love, after all, are meant to go together. In the all-natural course of our human existence they usually do. Our lives begin with the most intimate act of human love. We are conceived through a communion of persons. The newborn baby is protected and warmed, cradled and fed, cleaned and comforted by the family. This is what can and should recur at the end of life. Our whole lives are meant to be enveloped by love.

Euphemisms like "euthanasia," "mercy killing," "death with dignity," "the right to die," make it all sound so reasonable. But what exactly is reasonable about self-destruction? How can choosing death be rational, human, or compassionate?

There are several other questions we ought to be asking, too. Here are a few of them.

If it's assisted, how can it be suicide?

What is the risk that undiagnosed depression could end up being terminal?

Given that most health care costs are incurred at the end of life, what pressures could be placed on those who are old or sick to end their lives?

Remember the slippery slope people in previous decades said doesn't exist?

Who benefits financially when someone chooses to die?

How can we trust a health care system in which doctors save some lives and end others?

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