According to the Vatican, those were the last words of Pope John Paul II some six hours before his death. A certain irony struck me as I heard the news report of those words today. It’s about the right to die.

We’re certainly all aware of the recent Terry Schiavo case in which family members battled in the courts to ascertain whether or not her wishes would be fulfilled. We’re also keenly aware of President Bush’s 11th hour intervention to keep the woman alive.

I find it interesting that the Pope asked his caregivers to let him die, refusing hospital care, and that this somehow seems to fit into Catholic/Christian doctrine even though it would appear that those opposed to the right to die – as they were in the Schiavo case – ought to have pressured the Vatican to forego the Pope’s wishes, opting instead for aggressive medical intervention right until the end.

Is there a certain hypocrisy here? Perhaps those right to life people aren’t even aware of how grey these issues are since they seem quite selective about how these decisions are made.
What is the difference between saying “let me go to the house of the father” and telling a spouse or family member that they do not wish to have extraordinary measures taken to keep them alive? I don’t see it.

It will be interesting to watch the reaction to the Pope’s last words. I suppose some will say that it was inevitable that he would die anyway, considering that he had Parkinson’s and was advanced in age. Is that the exception the right to lifer’s stance? Age? What about younger people with Parkinson’s? Do they have the same right to refuse treatment? Why not? Who decides?

The truth is that these right to die decisions are made every single day and no single advocacy group – especially one with such muddy standards as the right to lifers – and no government ought to have the right to step in and intervene. This is an issue of privacy. If that was good enough for the Pope, shouldn’t it be good enough for everyone else?

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