November 26 - December 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 158

The Right to Live

The inspiring story of a severe spina bifida victim reaffirms euthanasia is not the answer

    The sanctity of human life from the womb to the grave. That Doctrine of our faith is being challenged, not only by the legalized killing of unborn babies, but by the killing of our elderly and sickly.

    Euthanasia as abortions -- both brainchilds of satan, has been making the headlines lately. As you may know, euthanasia is legal in Oregon. Now the liberals are up in arms about our new Attorney General John Ashcroft, as he and most godly people want to make it illegal in ALL states.

    Under the Ashcroft ruling, “The Controlled Substances Act," physicians are not permitted to use federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide. If they do, the would lose their license. The State of Oregon brought suit against the Ashcroft ruling last week. Thank God that John Ashcroft is our attorney General and George W. Bush is our president. As I was pondering this, I couldn't help but think -- what if the pro-abort Al Gore was our president and Janet Reno, or another Reno type our Attorney General -- the sanctity of human life would be a joke.

    It is with this in mind that I want to share the following story with you. It is a story of love and courage. It is a story of a continuing struggle against all odds. It is a story of faith and the will to live and to help the less fortunate. In comparison, your problems will look like a walk in the park on a beautiful day.

    Spina bifida sufferer Alison Davis tried to end her own life 15 years ago. Now the thought of euthanasia becoming law in the England terrifies her. She tells why motor neuron disease victim Diane Pretty should fail in her High Court appeal for the right to die.

    In January Alison Davis sat in her wheelchair and opened a Millennium Home for Disabled Children in Southern India which has been named after her. If she had been successful in her bid to die 15 years ago, it would never have been built because Alison, who has spina bifida, would not have been alive to raise funds for it.

    The quality of her life became intolerable when the husband she had met at college and who was her carer, left her after 10 years of marriage. “It was a very black period,” she says. “I wanted to die and tried to kill myself several times.”

    The last time she tried to die she refused to let doctors pump her stomach. They waited until she lost consciousness and did it anyway. “Had euthanasia been legal, that wouldn’t have been done. That would have been it,” she says.

    Alison, 46, was born with the congenital disorder that leads to an under- developed spine. She is paralyzed from the waist down and has no feeling in the right side of her body. She also suffers from the breathing disorder emphysema and the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

    Last year she broke her arm in two places just by pushing a stopper back onto a bottle. As her spine gradually collapses, it constantly traps nerves.

    Alison spends much time in chronic pain and takes morphine when it becomes too much to bear.

    Alison, who lives near Dorchester, Dorset, now believes it’s wrong to choose death over life. “Death isn’t the solution to desperation,” she says.

    “Legalizing euthanasia is the mark of a society that has given up supporting its most vulnerable members, but instead believes that people like us are better off dead.

    “Killing people is not a compassionate response to pain. It’s an abuse of the trust between patient and doctor. If any person is desperate enough to want to die, that is evidence there is an element of depression that ought to be treated.

    “If you allow euthanasia, you’re saying a certain group of people may be killed rather than being given the support that would automatically be given if they did not have an obvious condition.

    “I am terrified, for people like me, that Diane Pretty will win her appeal because it will encourage society to think people like us are better off dead.”

    Unlike Diane Pretty, Alison’s condition is not considered terminal, but as her spine continues to disintegrate her pain will inevitably increase. Already, she describes it as “like getting your fingers trapped in a door, the sharp pain of the door shutting over and over again in different parts of the body.”

    Alison says the pain can persist for hours, even with morphine. She argues that this makes her situation just as difficult, perhaps even more so, than someone who knows that eventually the disease itself will bring a natural end to their pain.

    “What we really need is not a framework for determining who can be killed and how and why, but a framework of support for those who are desperate enough to want to die,” she says.

    Alison believes doctors should receive better pain-control training instead of just a few hours’ training on palliative care. “Is it any wonder people in a lot of pain have difficulty getting the right treatment for it?” she says. It took a long time for Alison to change her mind about euthanasia. “I didn’t wake up one morning and the sun was shining again,” she says. “Wanting to die and actually taking steps to try to make it happen lasted about five years. In the following five years I often felt as desperate, but began to realize it would hurt my friends terribly. I also started to realize that if one of my friends asked me to help them die I would have done everything I could to dissuade them.”

    Colin Harte has been Alison’s full-time carer for 12 years. “He has helped me understand that even in times of unbearable pain there can be good moments too,” she says. “Colin can’t make the physical pain go away, but he can and does hold my hand and say ‘it will stop’. I need that sort of reassurance. The ultimate terror is of being all on your own and worrying how you are going to cope. I think it’s sad that Diane Pretty is surrounded by people who say she is right to feel her life has no value.

    “If you are disabled or in pain and surrounded by people who agree you would be better off dead you end up believing it. But if you are surrounded by people who make you feel your life has the same unfathomable value as theirs, then you are able to cope with tomorrow.”

    Five years ago Alison was invited to sponsor two disabled children in India. They asked her to visit them and she and Colin eventually made the arduous journey. “I felt such a rapport with these children that my heart melted,” she says. Back home she started a charity to raise money to support disabled Indian children, whose parents had abandoned them become of their disability.

    “I realize what a waste it is to want to die, even when your life is limited,” she says. She now plans to raise enough money to build a surgical unit at the home. At the moment, the children have to travel 350 miles to receive even basic surgery. In January she and Colin return to India. A letter from a little girl called Chandrakala who has polio leaves her in no doubt what Alison’s life means to the children there “We are waiting for you with a thousand eyes,” she tells her.

    If you would like to support Alison’s charity, or want further information, please contact: Enable (Working in India) [Registered charity no. 1053560], 35 Stileham Bank,Milborne St Andrew,Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0LE.

Dr. Frank Joseph

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For past columns by Dr. Frank, see PRO-LIFE PRESCRIPTIONS Archives

November 26 - December 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 158
Dr. Frank Joseph's PRO LIFE PRESCRIPTIONS column
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