A writer whose mother refused assisted suicide in a US state where it is legally available, has warned that the law ‘repackages killing as compassion’.
On her twelfth birthday, Jessica Rodgers’ mother Helene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and told she had six months to live.
Jessica described the difficult atmosphere growing up in Oregon, “where killing oneself can, in some circumstances, be celebrated, even encouraged as a positive option”.
Lives worth saving
“How does the child navigate a society that on one hand grieves suicide victims and cries that it gets better, while on the other hand silently agreeing that some lives aren’t worth living and that suicide would be the best option available.
“How does one learn which lives are worth saving and which aren’t?” she asked.
She argues that if we came across a person on a bridge about to commit suicide, our instinct would be to hold them back with “compassionate arms”, rather than look into the reasons for their decision or even help them to jump.
Grace and dignity
Jessica said her mother Helene “chose to face her last days with grace and dignity” and lived for nearly four years, much longer than the six-month prognosis.
“She knew that dignity was not to be found in ending her own life, or asking her doctor to be complicit in her death”, Jessica said.
Helene was very ill for much of that time, but Jessica said that her mother “wasn’t defined by her cancer”.
She remembers many happy moments, such as Helene holding her grandson, who was only a few months old when she died.
Jessica commented that our laws “reflect the society we want to be; when legislation is introduced that would radically change the roles of our doctors, and egregiously redefine compassion in our culture, we must be willing to stand up and talk about the things that pain us the most”.
She asked: “How do we measure our society if not by the way in which we treat our most vulnerable?”
Jessica concluded: “Assisted suicide laws target the most vulnerable population among us. The sick and dying need our support, not killing repackaged as compassion. Killing will never be healthcare.”
At Westminster, MPs are set to vote on Labour MP Rob Marris’ assisted suicide Bill on 11 September.