Compassion and respect

“No other option” – time for acknowledgement, compassion and respect

A very interesting interview this morning on ABC RN Breakfast with John O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice in Washington DC commenting on Pope Francis giving priests discretion to forgive women and their doctors for abortions – though only for one year from 8 December 2015. He has said many women who sought an abortion did so because they ‘believed they had no other option’.  See more and listen to the podcast …

In the program and in the media release on the Catholics for Choice website, John O’Brien makes some excellent points about abortion and reproductive health and the gulf between what the Catholic hierarchy dictates and the moral and ethical choices of the vast majority of Catholics.  According to him, “Ninety-nine percent of US Catholic women have used a method of birth control the bishops don’t like, and we know that Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as those of other faiths and no faiths.” (Read more … )

The same points could be made about Catholics’ attitudes to voluntary assisted dying as opinion polls indicate.  Will Pope Francis take the same position of compassion and forgiveness for people with terrible suffering who choose assisted dying when they run out of options?  We won’t hold our breath.  Acknowledging they exist would be a good start. Then we might see acknowledgement and compassion from the Catholic individuals and groups opposing voluntary assisted dying legislation in Australia who remain almost completely silent about the people with intolerable and unrelievable suffering who need and want assisted dying.

But it’s not just the small minority of Christians who are hard-line Catholics and have more fundamentalist views who are avoiding ‘inconvenient truths’ about voluntary assisted dying. Members of our Committee have read through hundreds of submissions to the Victorian inquiry into end of life choices and found the same pattern as for all other recent inquiries.  In submissions from palliative care and medical opponents of voluntary assisted dying, as well as religious ones, there is an almost total absence of acknowledgement of or compassion for people in this situation, or any expression of respect for their patient autonomy, self-determination and freedom of choice according to their own beliefs and values.

When the harsh reality of some people’s intolerable and unrelievable suffering is acknowledged, it is often the catalyst for a change of mind to support for a legal option of doctor-provided assisted dying.  The most notable example is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.  As he has said – “The current law fails to address the fundamental question of why we should force terminally ill patients to go on in unbearable pain and with little quality of life.  It is the magnitude of their suffering that has been preying on my mind as the discussion over the right to die has intensified.  The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”  Read more …

What we need is more politicians taking the same approach.

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