The recent deaths of Mrs. Schiavo and Pope John Paul II challenge us to consider our moment in time very carefully. I commented that these deaths constitute one of the great "hinges of history" in my lifetime. Barring a nuclear blast or the Second Advent, it is my conviction that historians a generation from now will look back on this moment and see the Western world moving in one of two directions.
The first direction - and the one we are currently heading in - is rather ominous. We disregard the ethical distinctions brought out by these two deaths and continue to cultivate a culture of euthanasia, where life becomes more and more disposable. Who decides someone's "quality of life" apart from the individual? Withdrawing a feeding tube is NOT the same as ending certain life-support machinery! The Pope died with a feeding tube; Mrs. Schiavo was slowly starved to death by an adulterous husband. Where does this end? Will the USA go in Holland's direction, with children as young as sixteen allowed to choose assisted suicide? What about families of the future strapped for funds - does it become an aged relative's duty to die?
There is a second direction - one that requires courage and sacrifice. We can once again affirm that life is a gift to be received at conception and released for coronation at the proper end. We must resist all modes of active euthansia and rediscover the lessons we learn from the infirm and vulnerable among us. In recent weeks is has been appalling to hear that Mrs. Schiavo should "be allowed to die in dignity." Dignity had no part in this melodrama. All Michael Schiavo had to do was divorce his wife and move on, but he refused, for no other reason that financial gain; which, ironically, will prove to be quite small (unless he sells the rights to a Hemlock Society sponsored film).
Two deaths, once choice confront us. It is a death or life decision - will we support the transcendent value of human life or continue on a pathway that make some people disposable?