When an idea or concept needs a push in popular culture, Hollywood often makes a movie about it. With the power of emotional drama and a film score designed to tug at the heart, Hollywood has the power to advance ideas that we would otherwise reject on moral grounds. Its most recent attempt uses the book-to-movie love story Me Before You to create sympathy for and acceptance of euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS).
Ten years ago Terri Schiavo, a severely disabled woman living in Florida, was starved to death—US courts upheld her husband’s decision that, in effect, Terri wouldn’t want to live this way, and so her life supports were removed. Many empathized with the court’s decision, stating that Terri was not mentally capable of expressing her wishes. As I sat in my wheelchair outside the hospice facility where Terri was dying, I knew it was a watershed moment that would jeopardize the lives of all Americans with disabilities.
The first time Dan Pollock and I bumped wheelchairs, I was taken aback by the severity of his paralysis and his thin, frail body. Dan was born with a significant neuromuscular disease, and some people have said that he’d be better off dead than disabled. But Dan is full of life. It troubles me when people say he’s suffering needlessly or that he is imprisoned in his body. Such phrases allege to be compassionate but reveal a fundamental fear that actually means, “I would hate to live like that.”
In a previous essay, “Death and the Church,” I wrote that the local congregation needs to address the end of life and its attendant issues. Given our secular culture’s confusing responses to suffering and death—death is either the ultimate human foe to be conquered at any cost, or is preferable to a “diminished quality of life”—many believers are co-opting a worldview that runs contrary to historic Christianity. While we are most appreciative of the fine and informative work of ministries such as The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, the “think tank” cannot replace the local parish as the center of Christian education.
Posts of this forum are reviewed by CBHD staff and an editorial committee, however, the views expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily endorsed by The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity or Trinity International University.