I was watching the news this morning and listening to the discussion about the right to die that has been raised again. As someone who does a few funerals, 29 so far this year, I see the pain and sadness that goes with such an event. Yes, almost without exception, I get told that the person who has died wanted it to be a celebration of their life and not a time of tears and sadness. But the reality is that it is a time of sadness and tears for most people even though they try to celebrate. Emotions are well and truly mixed.
Having said that, I can't conceive of the challenges that one might face
living with a life-limiting condition or near constant severe pain. Dark days must be a regular companion in such circumstances.
So what about the issue of assisted dying?
Those in favour seem to edge towards the right to self determination, and those against towards the sanctity of life and the fear of opening a door to pressure and abuse, pushing the vulnerable towards a choice they may not want to make.
I have no simple answers, but I do wonder if there's a question we are missing, common ground we share that could help us help each other understand and explore the issue together. Rather than an argument, could we not take a journey as partners? Why is the debate always polarised in the bite-sized media into for and against? Where is the informed discussion involving those who care for the dying, the palliative care experts alongside those who support or question the proposals?
I suspect those in favour of a right to die are equally concerned to protect the rights of the vulnerable and to not create a open door to abuse. Could we not start there? How does grace and compassion influence the debate and how does it challenge the pro lobby?
Perhaps we are simply too used to the idea of an adversarial debate to be able to listen thoughtfully to all sides.
You may have noticed that I've not offered a theological reflection, I've not spoken about a specifically Christian or Evangelical perspective. I do have one, but I hope that it informs and shapes my understanding while still allowing room for continued reflection.
Personally I try to remember that theological answers work for those who share a similar conviction that God is at work in our world. For those who do not, it's not an argument at all. I respect that, and want to think with them, not against them.
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