That’s the crux of the matter really: Is life worth living? Every argument for assisted dying can be boiled down to that, for some people, life isn’t worth living.
Let’s be honest; it can be difficult to argue against this. Some people live in horrific pain. Some people have no hope. Some people feel incapable of doing any good. Some people feel they are a burden. Some people are lonely. Some people feel unwanted. Some people believe their lives aren’t worth living.
But I hold as a matter of faith that they are wrong. That life is always worth living, for everyone. I know this is demanding. Life is the setting of all suffering and struggle. It entails pain, weakness, failure, and humiliation. But it also entails love, and I believe that love is worth all, that love brings value to all.
If we believe when certain people say their own lives aren’t worth living, it is only natural to believe the same for people in similar circumstances who believe their own lives are still worth living. It makes perfect sense then, to persuade (i.e. pressure), these vulnerable people into ending their lives also. And so the throwaway culture goes on.
If we admit that for some people life isn’t worth living, other people, without terminal illnesses, will be more likely to accept that their own lives aren’t worth living either. I don’t have statistics, but I don’t doubt that accepting assisted dying for the terminally ill makes suicide a far less outrageous proposal for many people. If we can give up on anyone, anyone at all, anyone can give up on themselves.
It is never compassionate to give up on another’s life, even if they do it first. Compassion is about “suffering with”, entering into another’s suffering and struggling with them in solidarity. Compassion is the struggle to live, to love, in the midst of the darkness, death, and despair of all humanity. In all suffering, our own and others, we must struggle to bring love to the world; love which is all the stronger for suffering.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Please pray for those who don’t believe their lives are worth living.