‘Death with dignity’ has nothing to do with dignity

By John Rozycki

In an op-ed, Ms. Peggy Huppert writes about three people who, owing to suffering and pain, wanted to die. It is written in light of the “Death with Dignity” legislation before the Legislature. She laments that as people live longer, they often find themselves “not about to die, but wishing fervently they could.” She asks: “Two succeeded in taking their own lives, alone, but is that really what we want to force people to do?”

No! Alone or not, irrespective of age or infirmity, desiring to take one’s life stems from hopelessness, something to be overcome, not to surrender to in despair. Taking one’s life is not a moral option. “We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” (Catholic teaching) Moreover, God can use suffering for good. If you have any doubt, take a careful look at Jesus on the cross.

My 92-year old mother died after being in a nursing home for two years. She was deaf, almost blind, and was wheelchair bound. Life was burdensome, but she had hope. She prayed constantly for those people and situations on her mile-long prayer list. When God determined it was her time, I was there to hear her last words: Psalm 23.

Living longer is evidence of our victory over many infirmities. Until it is our time to die, let us bring comfort, hope, and joy to the suffering, wherever they are.

[Thanks to John Rozycki for permission to publish his letter to the editor.]


  1. Shawn Pavlik on February 24, 2016 at 10:35 am

    This is a tough issue for me. Some people are forced to deal with a situation where they will either a. live with unbearable pain throughout their day or b. take significant amounts of drugs so that they can deal with the pain and then walk through life in a drug-addled stupor, not being “themselves” at all. I believe that the legislation has enough barriers in place so that those who are simply “depressed” do not use this as an option to end their life, but instead that this would be used as intended to end the suffering and agony of an individual and their family members.

    As it stands, it would not be difficult for a person to end their life anyway. If they have access to a Tylenol bottle, taking 50 tylenol would do it, but likely in a more painful and slower manner, as their liver and kidneys shut down. We frequently put down our beloved pets who are suffering so as to end that suffering yet we force people to endure that pain. I’m not sure that is “humane” at all.


    • quinersdiner on February 24, 2016 at 10:51 am

      You assume that suffering serves no purpose. I believe it can and does. Even more, so-called ‘death with dignity’ legislation creates opportunities for gave injustices being done to the disabled and the infirm by caretakers who think they know what is best for them, namely death, as we have learned from Oregon’s experience. Our lives are a gift from God. Suffering is part of the human experience and, if anything, give our lives even more meaning, as Christ’s sacrifice on the cross reveals to us.

      • Shawn Pavlik on February 24, 2016 at 12:07 pm

        I don’t think it DOES create those opportunities, as it is written into the bill that it has signed off by two doctors in two separate doctor visits. The person has to be terminally ill.

        I also do not believe that we can base laws on how you and I feel about God and suffering. I don’t think you understand the agony that, for example, those with terminal cancer are suffering.

        The details (per the Des Moines Register, 2/10/16):

        The process proposed in the Iowa legislation would include an initial oral request for lethal medication, followed by a second oral request at least 15 days later, and finally a written request. At least 48 hours would need to elapse between filing the written request and issuing a prescription for a life-ending drug.

        The bill says a person planning to take his or her life would need to be an Iowa resident and be terminally ill, competent and voluntarily request to die. The patient would also need to be at least 18 years old.

        In addition, the signing of the written request for life-ending medication would need to be witnessed by two people. This would include at least one person who is not a relative or entitled to a portion of the patient’s estate, a nursing home employee or owner, or attending physician.

        The legislation also says the patient would be counseled about the importance of having another person present when taking the life-ending medication and to not take the medication in a public place.

        A qualified patient’s act of self-administering medication to end his or her life would not have an effect on any life, health or accident insurance or annuity policy.

        If a doctor would be unable or unwilling to carry out the patient’s request for life-ending medication, the health care provider would be required to transfer the patient’s relevant medical records to a new physician, the legislation says.

        Like you, Tom, I believe in the sanctity of life. However, THIS kind of life is no blessing to those who have to go through it. It is cruel and in humane to sit in judgment and say, “You do not have the right to end your agony in a peaceful and voluntary way.” I believe that the way the legislation is written addresses the concerns you would have for abuses by family members.

        Religiously, consider: Jesus CHOSE the cross. He died for us that we could live eternally with our Father. We already allow DNR orders, POA that would allow withholding of measures that would prolong life, i.e. dialysis, breathing machines, etc. This just takes it one step further.

        • quinersdiner on February 24, 2016 at 1:13 pm

          I watched both of my parents die of cancer. My 91 year old mother in law lived with us for 15 years. We watched her suffer her last two years, before dying at home in my wife’s arms last year. I have witnessed suffering close up. I can attest that there is dignity and grace in dying. My mother in law and my family would have all have missed out on an important part of life if we had allowed her to kill herself two years ago.

  2. Shawn Pavlik on February 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    A comment on the DMR article I referenced:

    I am one of the people who are dying and fighting for this bill. The way to combat what you are talking about is to not allow the health care industry, the health insurance industry, and the government to treat the poor like expendable trash. I am on Medicare and I have secondary insurance. I have the financial means to seek out the best medical care available. But I don’t qualify for any clinical trials as I am facing 2 life threatening illnesses. They are not anywhere near even coming close to any type of cure for either one of those illnesses. But here’s what my future holds… As these illnesses spread throughout my intestines and abdomen, it will eat through my abdominal wall, creating holes across my abdomen, sides, and back, allowing the contents of my intestines to spill out. Yes, the nurses can pack those wounds. The stench will make myself and my family want to vomit when they see me. The disease has also attacked almost all of the vertebrae in my spine and pelvic bone, eating away at the bones. So my family who want yo hug me will not be able to for fear of literally breaking my back. I will be too fragile to walk to and from the bathroom. So I will have to wear diapers, which is not something I want my 51 yr old husband or 18 yr old son to have to do. There ARE things worse Than death.

  3. Shawn Pavlik on February 24, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    From that same person, a later comment:

    This is specifically written as to be only an option solely based on the patient’s request. It must be sign by 2 Drs and 2 witnesses who have nothing to gain from the patient. This is for people who are terminally ill, definition being having 6 months or less left to live. This is not for stage 2 or 3 breast cancer patients who are tired of fighting. This is for patients who are out of treatment options and are expected to die in 6 months or less. It’s not even for me right now. I don’t even qualify for this yet and I’m a stage 4 cancer patient with another life-threatening illness. But I have not yet been told that I only have 6 months or less to live. And not everyone will make the choice to use this option.

    • John Rozycki on February 24, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Shawn, I am truly sorry to hear of your plight. I will pray for you. There is certainly a lot of suffering in this world. I think that the moral question is: Who has the right to take a life? And, who has the right or authority to give a person that right. Two doctors and two witnesses is irrelevant. Who gives these individuals the right to sign off? And six months is completely arbitrary. Once people are given the legal right to take their own life, why have any restrictions? On what basis should there be any restrictions?

      In contrast to the author of the Register article, I think otherwise. I believe that a loving God gave us the gift of life; it is not ours to destroy. My dad died of Alzheimers disease. It was difficult watching him progress. That said, I was blessed to be there when he died. One final thing, a doctor I know very well told me that we have made tremendous progress in medicine and palliative care. More than ever, there is no reason for anyone to die in excruciating pain.