Compassion for Life

    

  “Euthanasia and assisted suicide can appear a reasonable and even compassionate solution to the suffering of individuals and families struggling with illness or the dying process.  Yet these are not real solutions—they do not solve human problems, but only take the lives of those most in need of unconditional love.  As Christians, we are called to help build a civilization of life and of love, in which seriously ill persons and their families are never abandoned, but are supported with services, friendship and love.”

                                                           —U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pastoral Care Plan

 

The chronically ill or dying

        We often neglect the elderly or the chronically ill.  Both the elderly and their caregivers, especially those who live at home, can suffer from a lack of support from those around them for a variety of reasons.  Those who had visited or kept in touch prior to illness or the problems of the aged become uncomfortable and visit less often.  With an increasing aged population in the country and with health care costs seeming to spiral out of control,  the problems of assisting elderly and the chronically ill are growing in size and dimension. 

       elderly_hands.jpg It is in these stages of life that supporters of euthanasia or assisted suicide believe that those options should be available.  However, the thought processes of those whose lives are impaired by chronic terminal illnesses and the judgment of their family or caregivers are often impeded by depression or other factors.  Pain, dementia, economics and more lead them to believe that the illness is too great a burden on either the patient, relatives or the caregiver.  Allowing either assisted suicide or euthanasia at this point should not be considered compassionate….it should be considered negligent.  The condition of a patient is sometimes a very subjective view.  If euthanasia or assisted suicide were legal in this state, it may take only one signature….the doctor’s, the family or caregiver’s, or the patient’s...to sign away life.  As long as it remains illegal, there is no greater protection for that life.

         Especially with the chronically ill,  palliative care can improve their quality of life.  Palliative care refers to providing relief from pain and stress and making a person comfortable, while providing a measure of dignity and compassion as the end of life draws near.

 

“The answer to patients suffering at the end of life is not to kill them, but to provide aggressive and appropriate relief from pain, compassionate counsel and unconditional love.” 

                                                           —Dr. David Stevens, CEO Christian Medical Association

What WE can do to help

        As a pro-life group or organization, there are many ways to promote the sanctity of human life when considering the chronically ill and their families.  Many churches or community organizations have names of chronically ill patients that they provide support to and may share that information with you (if the family agrees) when you aren’t directly aware of anyone that may be in need of support.

1.    Provide meals or other help to the family or caregiver, especially when the care is given at home.  The problems faced by a family or caregiver can seem insurmountable, especially when there is an emotional attachment to the patient.  Often times the quality of life of the caregiver is neglected when they are focused on taking care of the ill.   As a group, you have a greater collective ability to ease some of the burden.

2.    Reach out to members of your church family or community or those who are caring for their loved ones.  Set up a schedule to provide meals as often as necessary for the family.

  • Offer to run errands, such as grocery shopping, etc.
  • Help with yard work such as raking leaves, mowing grass, watering flowers, etc.
  • In the winter time, help with shoveling sidewalks or driveways
  • Offer to take over care duties, if possible, to allow the caregiver to get out of the home for a while.
  • Be a good listener, and sometimes just sit with them to keep them company and give them support.
  • Whatever the activity your group chooses to do, provide the caregiver with a schedule or a list of names and phone numbers that they can reach out to for assistance.  Some might hesitate to call for help, so make it a point to have someone call on a regular basis to offer the group’s help.

2.    Volunteer at a hospice or respite care center.  Most hospices get paid through Medicare benefits.  In order to receive those benefits, a hospice is required by mandate to maintain a volunteer staff to provide administrative or direct patient care in a pre-determined amount.  As a result, both patients and staff are dependent on volunteer hours.  According to published studies, “Volunteers are most often perceived by hospice patients as just ordinary people from the community.  As a result of this relationship, volunteers are able to help normalize the hospice experience for patients and families.  This is very beneficial to the hospice team because volunteers are able to spend more time with patients and their families, providing an increased involvement in putting them at ease.”  As a group, suggest a rotating schedule of volunteering at a nearby hospice.  Before volunteering, make sure that the hospice does not support the view that provision of food and water to a chronically ill person is considered “extraordinary means” of keeping someone alive. The denial of food and water can only result in euthanasia, or killing by starvation and dehydration.

3.    Remember that there are chronically and/or terminally ill children as well as adults.cancer_child.jpg

  • Grant a “wish” for a sick child.  Organizations which grant wishes are often inundated, so if the wish will cost a lot, organize a fundraiser to try and make the wish come true.
  • Participate in a walk or run to benefit cancer research, diabetes or other diseases which search for cures.  Or organize a fundraiser to benefit the child or the family.
  • Volunteer at a developmental center for children/adults with mental retardation or developmental disabilities.

4.   Pray, both personally and as a group, for those who are dying and their families to receive the respect and care they need.

5.   Become informed!  Arrange for a pro-life speaker to talk to your group about euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Invite the general public, too. With the issue of abortion as the primary focus for many that profess to be pro-life, a lot of people really aren’t aware of the facts, issues and dangers associated with euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Right to Life of Northeast Ohio has a speakers bureau and can put you in contact with someone to talk to your group.  Staying informed will help everyone become stronger pro-life advocates when these issues are considered by lawmakers.

        There are countless ways to be of support to the chronically or terminally ill patients and their families.  If allowed by the family or caregiver, prepare bulletin announcements and news releases pertaining to the activity you do.

 

 

 

 

 

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