True Aid in Dying

The Connecticut state legislature is debating once again a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide, calling it an “Aid in Dying” law. Below is part of an essay by Dr. Michael Brescia, the founder of Calvary hospice, that helps us to understand the true needs of those facing terminal illness. Not poison, but presence, love, and compassion. 

People ask for physician-assisted suicide because of suffering, depression, loneliness, physical symptoms, and personal image distortion.  Sometimes people begin to feel guilty.  They think, “Why should other people have to take care of me?  Isn’t it better if I’m dead?”  That’s the way the thinking starts.  It is a hard thing when we have to depend on others to do very basic things for us.  As human beings we suffer in three main ways: spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.  Spiritual suffering has to do with the person in the bed saying, “why did You do this to me, God? I don’t want to be here.”  There is also fear: “Is there a God?  Does He know what’s happening to me?  Does He care?”  One part of mental suffering is depression.  There is wonderful medication that we can use to treat depression.  But the main way we suffer is emotionally – the sense of abandonment, the absence of love.  Emotional suffering can only be treated by love. 

There are four ways to alleviate suffering.  The first way is to be present.  These patients can’t be alone.  You have to try as much as possible for them to have contact, presence.  The second way is touch.  When we touch someone we are no longer the same; there is a bond.  Babies in their mother’s womb touch the uterine wall.  We have to touch our patients.  That’s the way to love anybody.  The third way is to hold, to embrace someone so they know they are not alone.  The fourth way is to say it, “I love you.  I promise never to abandon you.”  I have said it a thousand times a day.  You have to be present, to touch, to hold, and you have to say it.  Families need the same care as patients.  About 80% of our day is spent with families.  Be present, give information, touch them, hold them, and tell them that they are a gift to you; their loved one is a gift. 

At Calvary we treat 6,000 patients a year, and no one, after they have been here for 24 hours, asks for assisted suicide.  No one, no matter what’s wrong, and we’ve seen some terrible cases.  Not when you reach out with arms of love.  When I enter a patient’s room, I always stop on the saddle of the door, and I pray, “My dear Lord God, my love for You brings me here for Your greater glory.”  Then it is no longer a patient’s room; it’s now a sanctuary.  When you ask God to come, He comes.  I know He’s there.  I can feel it.  And when someone is dying, you think that room is part of this earth?  No! You are not in this world.  You have entered the vestibule of Heaven. 

You can find this essay and others in Regaining Sight, a book published by the Sisters of Life and available to purchase here (along with other great resources):

Please consider reaching out to your state representative to express your opposition to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in the State of Connecticut to protect the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled members of our society who are most vulnerable to the effects of this bill.

posted 3/6/21

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