Life can be turned upside down in an instant, or a decline in health could span over many years. Either way, decisions will need to be made about critical medical decisions and means need to be in place to protect you and your loved ones from premature death that does not reflect the dignity of human life. Euthanasia corrupts society’s view of human life by determining a person’s worth to society by their quality of life.
What is euthansia?
Euthanasia is the intentional ending of a person’s life usually through a lethal injection or through withholding nourishment or medical treatment. “Aid in dying” and “death with dignity” are euphemisms used by “right to die” advocates in an attempt to provide an improved image for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Involuntary Euthanasia is when an ill person’s life is ended without his/her consent or knowledge.
Voluntary Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide is when an ill person requests someone to intentionally help him/her to die.
Physician-Assisted Suicide is when a physician intentionally helps end the life of an ill person at his/her request usually through a medication overdose.
Passive Euthanasia is when death is hastened and accomplished through an intentional withholding of medical drugs, medical treatment or nourishment such as food and water.
Active Euthanasia is when a person’s life is intentionally and actively ended through the administration of drugs by himself/herself or a physician, nurse or other person.
Is euthanasia legal?
In all 50 states, Involuntary Euthanasia is a crime. Depending on the circumstances, a person committing Euthanasia can be charged with a Class 2 felony, a Class 4 felony, a Class 3 felony or a Class A misdemeanor. 1
Is assisted suicide legal?
In 46 states, including Illinois, assisted suicide is a crime. Depending on the circumstances, a person committing Assisted Suicide can be charged with a Class 2 felony, a Class 4 felony, a Class 3 felony or a Class A misdemeanor. 2
According to Illinois Law 755 ILCS 35/9 and 45/4-8e “withholding or withdrawal of death delaying procedures from a qualified patient or in accordance with terms of this Act or a health care agency shall not constitute suicide or homicide or murder.” 3
It is legal in Illinois to withhold food and fluids from a patient who is not dying and/or for the patient to refuse medical treatment if it is deemed to be “delaying death.”
Euthanasia around the globe
Euthanasia has become a large threat to the dignity of life in some countries around the world. In 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to completely legalize Euthanasia for children. There is now no age minimum for Euthanasia in Belgium. According to the BBC, the law stipulates that if the request by a child is “voluntary and well considered” and there is no prospect of recovery and the child is in great pain, a child can be euthanized no matter how old.
A similar law is in effect in the Netherlands: “The criteria for euthanizing newborns are as follows (from page 54 of the report): if the child is suffering, if it cannot express its own wishes, if death is inevitable and if the dying process is prolonged, then the child may be euthanized and spare the parents further severe suffering.” 4
Why are Healthcare Directives important?
Healthcare directives are legal documents completed by competent adults that direct your healthcare professionals and power of attorney on making medical decisions should you become incapacitated.
There are three types of healthcare directives: 1. Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC), 2. a Living Will (Directive to Physicians), and 3. a POLST form.
A DPAHC gives your agent access to medical facts and options regarding your current medical state should you be incapacitated. From there, your agent can make an informed decision on the best medical option for you. Both the Living Will and the POLST form give medical directions without having knowledge of the circumstances or medical facts of a situation you may face in the future. We strongly discourage filling out the Living Will or the POLST form.
How do I protect my loved ones and I from euthanasia?
1. Carefully determine who will serve as your healthcare agent for your Durable Power of Attorney. Selecting the wrong agent is just as dangerous as completing the wrong advanced directive. Have several conversations with your agent before making your decision.
2. Complete a healthcare directive. In order to protect yourself or your loved ones, we strongly recommend using either National Right to Life’s Will to Live document or this Advance Directives form put out by the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
3. Complete organ donation documents, opting yourself out of donating vital organs. See more information about organ donation here.
4. After you have very carefully chosen who will serve as your agent in making healthcare decisions, have several long, open conversations with that person over the course of your life, as circumstances change to ensure your end of life wishes are clear.
Why is it vital to use Illinois Right to Life’s Recommended Healthcare Directives Instead of the State of Illinois Forms?
After careful review, we have determined all three state of Illinois forms are not written to protect your life. The state’s documents lacks clarity and precision in interpreting and enumerating end of life wishes allowing hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to err on the side of death. The state’s forms cause confusion during end of life circumstances and encourage stress to be placed upon your family. Both of our recommended end of life packets from National Right to Life and the Catholic Conference of Illinois help to drastically reduce any confusion and stress surrounding end of life wishes and in difficult situations, always choose the option of life.
What is a POLST form?
POLST stands for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” but actually focuses more on ending the patient’s life rather than sustaining it. Illinois Pro-Life lobbyist Ralph Rivera noted, “POLST was created in 1991 at the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University. Oregon permits physician-assisted suicide. Key backers of POLST forms include foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that have funded ‘right to die’ organizations. That alone should indicate the real intentions behind POLST.”
The POLST form is an “actionable medical order” that is to be carried out over any objections by family or friends. That is a key reason why a life-affirming DPAHC is recommended and use of the POLST form should be avoided in almost all cases. The DPAHC allows a friend or family member that was chosen by the patient to have access to all the medical information during the situation and make an informed decision. The POLST form does not.
At What Age Do I need Fill out the Forms for End-of-Life Wishes?
Everyone who has reached the age of 18 should complete a life-affirming durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC). Young adults, before heading to college, need to be provided the opportunity to complete a DPAHC, or their parents may be prevented from involvement in their medical decisions in case of a tragic accident while away at college, under the privacy provisions required for medical care.
Discussing end of life wishes before the threat of death or illness is upon your family helps have a straightforward and clear discussion. Young adults often feel “invincible” and don’t want to consider end of life issues. Trust us, it never becomes easier, so the sooner it’s taken care of the better off you’ll be and you could save your family a lot of heartache.
Should I sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order?
The POLST form has recently replaced the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order. Though there may be circumstances as a person nears death when a DNR is needed, extreme caution should be taken before completing the POLST form to serve as a DNR order.
If you are young and healthy, we absolutely discourage the signing of a DNR. Every action should be taken to save your life and a DNR tells a doctor not to save your life. For example, if a 45-year-old man has a heart attack, a DNR tells emergency personnel not to conduct CPR to revive him. This man should not have a DNR on file because his life can still be saved. Also for example, a 21-year-old woman is in a car accident. After, arriving at the hospital, she goes into cardiac arrest. A DNR tells doctors not to perform CPR even though she could make a complete recovery and live out the rest of her life.
Upon entering the final stages of life, it is common for individuals to sign a DNR to avoid unwanted resuscitation attempts and allow death to naturally take its course. If a loved one is entering the last few months of life or s/he are extremely fragile and resuscitation measures would cause extreme and serious injury, the DNR provision of the POLST form can be used to prevent such unwanted interventions. For example, your 92-year-old grandmother is in very poor health. Doctors guess she only has a month left to live and she is moved into a hospice care. The hospice may ask to place a DNR in her medical file. Resuscitating her would severely damage her frail body and prevent death from naturally occurring. In this case, a DNR is an appropriate order.
Where can I find more information?
More information can be found at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and the American Life League.
Christian resources on end of life issues can be found at Care and Catholic resources on end of life matters can be found at the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.