I am up too late tonight. I am somewhat in the valley of my mood range despite having no outward claim to be disgruntled, angry with my creator, or otherwise disenfranchised. To the contrary, I have many gifts to be grateful for, including among them adversities that have ensured I am well grounded in humility and empathy for my fellow man and sometimes even for myself! These adversities have also demanded I have it out with my conception of religion, of people of faith, of spiritual seeking people, and ultimately of God.
At pivotal points in my life, psychic pain and suffering pitted against belief in a merciful and personal God have come into sharp contrast and confrontation. I like to think “I” have come through these events stronger and better prepared for suffering, yet I know that alone I would not last a second in some of the valleys I have traversed or may have to face down the road apiece.
What if I chose not to face those valleys? What if life was so unforgiving and so merciless in my perception, in my reality for me, that it became unworthy living? Most would not judge me well. On the outside, I have all the “trappings of normalcy” sprinkled with my unique madness that makes everyone a little different, a little more mysterious. Would you be in any position to judge me? Can we ever really know the sufferer beneath the smile of the ones we love or the stranger next door?
Intellectually I can hold court with rational support for both sides of this debate. I have no interest in doing so. We would have to prioritize the issue on several levels: societal values, individual rights, medical cost, impacted loved ones, moral and spiritual weights, philosophical underpinnings, and perhaps basic ethics.
There is a higher measure here — deep sorrow. Noa Pothaven died young and incited a Euthanasia debate that she did not want. Her story and suffering will be a book a film no doubt – but will we learn and change anything?
Noa suffered repeated trauma at the hands of others. The stories referenced below do not focus on justice for Noah or efforts to prevent future traumatic events to girls and women. Our professionals were not able to provide “trauma-informed care” to save this woman from the demons of her past experiences and the presence of deep psychic pain today. Two major systemic failures leap out here in criminal justice and mental health fields. Timely and effective prevention of sexual exploitation and violence and swift justice for acts of same is not an accepted or supported norm in our societies. The mental health systems are not built to provide surround care and nurturing when these horrible acts transpire in a manner that truly embraces recovery. Of course, this is an overgeneralization.
There are a wonderful therapist and crisis counselors doing awesome work and interventions out there. They are just not armed with the resources to provide the system of care required to insulate and care for victims of horrendous crimes care. We will never know where Noa would be if either of these two systems were fully and appropriately able to combat sexual violence and treat victims promptly and for as long as necessary with comprehensive care in a culture that does not allow for victim blaming and shaming. Even in the absence of assault, we have to be responsive to people with mental health conditions that lead to self-harming behaviors. Our observations cannot grasp the reality and suffering present within the mind of the person contemplating self-harm or suicide. Eating disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, alcoholism, and countless other maladies defy common understanding unless you experience it or are clairvoyant. Help and provide hope rather than judge and run away.
I cannot type a word against Noa or even the “End of Life Clinic” pictured below. They have a team of nurses and doctors that help people legally take their own life. I wonder what they charge – rather callously, this post deserves no humor.
The article above details their work. To do the work they do I imagine they are a deeply caring lot that faces pain, controversy, and death every day. Taking on that duty of trying to reasonably provide an option to people living with unbearable pain while ensuring full faculty of mind is a terrible endeavor, not to mention morally confounding.
If we were doing our work well, they would not have a lot of business. We are failing our youth in areas of education, nutrition, poverty, safety, civility, spirituality, and overall universally, global respect for all people (women, men, children, of every race, of every nationality, of every sexual orientation). It is not just a Netherlands problem or an American problem, but a universal moral and spiritual failure.
Hats off to our hospice and palliative care specialist as well that help people make informed choices, access treatments and define advanced directives that speak for them when they can no longer speak for themselves. I owe this field an apology of sorts as I often make jokes about their grim reaper role, underneath it all they give care when it is most needed and most complex. They are not at all “End of Life Clinics” despite many people they see are heading towards death’s door with dignity and respect.
Euthanasia is a serious question, but can we first treat people with dignity and respect before they reach death’s door or before they reach such immense suffering that they are asking to kick the door in? Hopefully, they are not by this act kicking in the Gates of Hell as Catholic doctrine teaches voluntary suicide is contrary to church law. Again can we work with what we know to be true and attempt to create heaven on earth by acts within our ability here and now on earth.
Can we start with praying for Noa and her family and then go out and act on the greater good in each of our communities? Prayer if well informed, can lead to noble and honorable action here and now supported by the grace of God. The photo is of Rodan’s Gates of Hell. I do not believe suicidal gestures and actions doom one to enter these gates. I do believe we have to wrestle more earnestly with issues of human dignity, come to understand human suffering and expand our access to the mystery of the divine nature within all of us.
Euthanasia is happening here in America legally, illegally, and in-between the two with a nod and an extra push on the morphine button. Are we much different than the Netherlands?
“Death by euthanasia is 4% of all deaths in the Netherlands. Is that a slippery slope? I don’t think so,” said Pleiter. Much of the demand was coming from the baby-boomer generation, he added. “They are thinking differently about the way life ends. God and religion are less dominant in their lives. They want more autonomy. But every case is unique.” In 2017, some 6,585 people chose euthanasia to end their own lives in the Netherlands, about 4.4 percent of the total number of more than 150,000 registered deaths in the country, according to the Regional Euthanasia Review Committee which strictly monitors all cases.
In the U.S., suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. This number, representing only about 1.3 percent of all deaths, does not accurately account for deaths due to underreporting, intentional deaths by overdose, alcohol-related deaths, and suspicious deaths (with hidden motive and intentions). Legal or not, we have too many people successfully taking their own lives.
Additional Facts About Suicide in the US
- The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2017 was 14.0 per 100,000 individuals.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle-age white men in particular.
- In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
- On average, there are 129 suicides per day.
- White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017.
- In 2017, firearms accounted for 50.57% of all suicide deaths.
Anyone want to join me on vacation to the Netherlands? Pack light we can save on baggage fees and return airfare. Okay, maybe the post needs a little dark humor.
It is quiet now. Three-twenty a.m. in the morning. It is the most trying time for people who are struggling with mental health – no one to call and silence and quiet all around. Spiritually it is a great time to pray and can be an equally challenging experience in times of desolation. Woe is the person who faces both at the same time (sickness and desolation), yet they often come hand in hand. Find solace in prayer and if nothing else works wake everyone the hell up – people love a little drama in the middle of the night!