For most fence-straddling Catholics, assisted suicide is an attractive dish on the cafeteria of morality. "If God is good, why would he allow suffering? Why should someone in pain continue to live? Why should we artificially prolong the life of someone who is already going to die?" Since the question of continuing care is still new, many people are unsure where exactly the church stands on these issues.
Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, OP, JCD, STM is an author, esteemed college professor, award-winning expert in the field of bio-ethics, and he can still tell a good Irish joke at age 80. A modest Dominican friar, it's easy to see that Fr. O'Rourke knows his stuff. Starting off as dean of the Aquinas Institute of Theology, he was moved to tackle the issues of medical ethics after Roe v. Wade. Whether you're looking for the "proper Catholic position" on a medical topic or you just want to hear a good story, Fr. O'Rourke is your man.
While popular media tends to polarize the argument of continuing medicine, the question of assisted suicide is not as two-sided as the esteemed Dr. Kevorkian would have us believe. Fr. O'Rourke states that "...much of the disagreement and misunderstanding in regard to ethical decisions often seems to stem(sic) from a lack of clear distinctions."(source) In his essays, Fr. O'Rourke explains how complicated the situation actually is, and where Catholic doctrine fits in:
- there is no difference between active or passive euthanasia. Since the purpose of both are to end human life, both forms are unethical and therefore require no distinction
- the concepts "grave burden" and "quality of life" apply not just to a patient's physical state, but to their emotional, psychological, and spiritual state,
- euthanasia has become more acceptable to society because of factors like prolonged medical treatment, the recognition of physiological burden only, not understanding God and suffering, and a sense of "control," that a customer has the "right" to choose if they want someone to help them die.
And that's where we must give props to Dr. Kevorkian: for packaging such a controversial topic in a way the American public likes..."It's your right to choose." In a world where we can't control the price of gas, the politicians we elect, or the popularity of Paris Hilton, someone tells us "We have the right to die!" and we cheer this new martyr before realizing how morbid the message actually is.
Before planting your foot down on either side of Dr. Kevorkian's crusade, get the straight dope from another doctorate holder.