Her first-hand perspective was unflinching: "It took me years to forgive my grandparents after they committed suicide. I was so angry at what they had done to me and my family. I felt betrayed. I felt nauseated. At some fundamental level I just couldn't believe it had really happened, and I couldn't believe that they didn't reach out to us for help. I thought the pain would never go away. The idea that suicide could ever be a good thing is a total crock and a lie. It leaves behind deep scars and immeasurable pain on the part of family and friends. We don't have the right to take our own lives because we didn't give ourselves life."
I'm reminded of the words of the mayor of one of our great cities, who declared: "The crime rate isn't so bad if you just don't count the murders." Assisted suicide, similarly, isn't so bad if you just don't count the victims: the many broken individuals, broken families, and broken hearts.
A friend of mine in Canada has struggled with multiple sclerosis for many years. He often speaks out against assisted suicide. Recently, he sent me a picture of himself taken with his smiling grandchildren, one sitting on each arm of his wheelchair. Below the picture he wrote, "If I had opted for assisted suicide back in the mid-1980s when I first developed MS, and it seemed life as I knew it was over, look what I would have missed. I had no idea that one day I would be head over heels in love with my grandchildren! Never give up on life."
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org