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C&C Magazine

Dignified Dying

Guest Essay
by Dustin Hankinson

The recent essay “Only Dignified When Dead?” by Stephen Mikochick of the Ave Maria School of Law makes a number of false claims and inaccurate assessments about aid in dying that I, an American living with a disability and supporter of Death with Dignity, take issue with.

Mikochick refers to the recent statement by the U.S. Catholic bishops opposing end-of-life choice in his assertion that it hinders patient autonomy, threatens disabled people and vulnerable populations such as the chronically or mentally ill, and carries the risk of involuntary administration.

This view contradicts the support of most Catholics and Americans for patients’ rights at the end of life, and the rationale is flawed.

The Death with Dignity law sets out a detailed process under which only terminally ill patients, meaning those with a diagnosis of less than six months to live, qualify. Furthermore, those individuals must be deemed mentally and psychologically competent by two separate physicians.

There is no room for error or slope-slipping, as it is the patient who has to pursue this option for themselves.

No one is forced to die, just as no one should be forced to stay alive longer than their body is able and their mind is willing.

I support the right of terminally ill adults — of any religion or no religion at all — to make their own end-of-life decisions.

It’s one thing to state your position based on religious beliefs, but quite another to falsify facts and impose those beliefs on every adult in the country.

We all deserve the autonomous decision to live a comfortable, dignified life right up until the end, whenever that may be for each of us. Artificially eating, artificially breathing, and enduring other painful and futile procedures to extend a terminal existence will not bring us closer to God; only living as compassionate, caring people can do that.

Hankinson has been a disability-rights advocate for over a decade. He has lived with Duchenne muscular dystrophy for 36 years.