Light Your Lamps for Life in the Coming Darkness of Death

candleThere are dark days ahead for sick, disabled and depressed people in Canada. The Supreme Court recently struck down the nation’s laws against assisted suicide. The high court’s judges unanimously supported this terrible decision. What sort of society helps suicidal people kill themselves?!

The high court defined the scope of assisted suicide to include an “illness, disease or disability” that causes “enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual the the circumstances of his or her condition.” It also includes those people suffering “psychological pain”. Assisted suicide would be an option even if the person has refused available treatments.

It should be noted that less than two years earlier Canada’s Parliament unanimously supported the idea of a national suicide prevention strategy. Parliament supported suicide prevention while the Supreme Court supports assisted suicide. What’s worse is that the vast majority of Canadians support both! Why the difference? Suicide prevention is intended to save suicidal healthy and able bodied people, assisted suicide is intended kill off suicidal sick and disabled people.

Am I wrong? How else should someone like me (incurably ill and disabled with advanced multiple sclerosis) interpret the apparent contradiction between the highest legislative and judiciary bodies in the land?

What will happen to conscience rights for physicians who refuse to participate in assisted suicide or refer patients for assisted suicide? Will their professional or licensing organizations support conscientious objectors? It’s dicey. Already I have been told by some physicians of their fears conscience rights will not be respected. Will the Canadian Medical Association and their provincial/territorial counterparts protect conscience rights of their members? What about nurses?

How will provincial governments in charge of health care delivery respond? Will they willing go along with the killing? Yes they will. They already violated the sanctity of human life by paying for all abortions for the past forty years. They pay for killing at the beginning of life, why not the end of life? At some point, the grades or distinctions of barbarism cease become murky. A deadly Rubicon has been crossed! Welcome to 21st Century Canada.

Yes, there are dark days ahead. But Christians must collectively light lamps of love with life-affirming action. Our light of Christian love will shine in the darkness of our culture. We can start outreaches of care and inclusion for the sick and disabled in much the same way as Christians established pregnancy care centers for women in crisis pregnancies in the 1980s. That is a template. The care is different but the Christ-centered love and concern are the same. Remember, love is a verb.

Establish Christian suicide hotlines and advertise them broadly. Connect suicidal people, and their families, to Christian Counseling and appropriate palliative care resources with up-to-date pain management. Make your churches welcoming, accessible and barrier free to people with disabilities. Reach out to families in crisis and invite them into the tender care of your church communities. Establish rosters of church-based trained volunteers to provide respite care for families facing a death or profound disability of a family member. Provide ongoing grief counseling.

Offer life with dignity — even when life is near its end. Offer life with dignity — even when a life has despaired of life. Offer the hope of a Christian life with dignity — even when a person wants to die and is about to pitch themselves into the dark abyss of suicide. Hold up life as a right, not death.

There are dark days ahead but we can be beacons of light pointing to a better way — the way of Christ. I write these words from authentic personal experience. I have known dark days too, yet in the midst of sickness, disease and disability I have seen the light of Jesus Christ.

“You are the light of the world. A city
on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people
light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead
they put it on a stand, and it gives light to
everyone in the house. In the same way,
let your light shine before men, that they
may see your good deeds and praise
your Father in heaven.” — Jesus
(Matthew 5.14-16)

Mark Davis Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at [email protected] or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.

  • Jim Cole

    I have heard the slogan, “Death with Dignity,” for over 25 years now, ever since participating in the effort to save the life of Nancy Cruzan in my home state of Missouri. I have never understood why it is more dignified to turn someone into a corpse than to help them live as best they can, however impaired. Our North American societies now want to avoid the very human experience of suffering so much that suicide is preferred. On the purely natural level, to say nothing of the spiritual level, that is so short-sighted, so immature. Was it Flannery O’Connor who pointed out that by adopting such a “humane” philosophy, we actually become quite inhuman? Killing oneself will not remain “voluntary” for long.