The phrase “Dying with Dignity” has been a mantra of those who support euthanasia, the so-called Right to Die cause. The argument, so it goes, is that dignity in death comes by going out on your own terms. (What you see here, actually, is Existentialism at work.) To be ravaged by pain and disease is, apparently, to lose dignity, control, and respect. Perhaps even worth?
The idea of dying with dignity was much in the news surrounding Terri Schiavo, though her case was certainly different. We can debate the merits of lingering on because of various machines another time. But the fact is that many of the people actively involved in seeking to remove her food and water were right to die activists. Let her die with dignity, rather than persist in this lesser state. As this case fades into memory, the larger debate promises to rage on.
I think that we find a strong contrast in the case of the death of Pope John Paul II. Throughout his pontificate, John Paul stood firm in his support for the dignity of human life in opposing abortion, cloning, and euthanasia, among other causes. This weekend he made his greatest statement about dying with dignity by resolutely trusting his fate into God’s hands and bearing with the pain and suffering until the end. Those near him reported his courage to endure pain and suffering. His death seems to me to paint a picture of what dying with dignity really looks like.
By the way, Dr. Mohler has a helpful post up today (Monday) on the legacy of John Paull II that, while celebrating his virtues and accomplishments, also cautions us to remember why we are not Roman Catholics.