Friday, September 4, 2009


September 1, 2009
"Despair is presumptuous," said a colleague, "that we know what is best."

I have been pondering this idea since yesterday.

We were discussing, in our Interdisciplinary Journal Club an article on physician-assisted-suicide (PAS). The article used antagonistic language to ruffle readers' feathers with slippery-slope statements. "Soon, the medical and insurance institutions will have a killing machine to treat expensive patients" or "State health plans that cannot afford to pay for a patient's medical treatment will begin recommending this procedure as an alternative." We collectively ignored the author's not-so-hidden agenda. The point of the language and of the article's presentation to our little weekly reading club was TALK ABOUT PAS.

So we did. We talked about why Oregon is the only state, so far, to legally allow PAS, that Washington state may begin legalizing it, and implications for patient populations as well as medical caregivers. We talked about what it would be like as a physician presenting this option to a patient, or being asked by a patient. One person said that they would not want to be anywhere near a serious discussion with a patient about this. We talked about when this may be an option - causing one person to remark that possibly under certain circumstances of medical need and family support limitations. One or more persons indicated that PAS should never be considered.

I thought about the number of patients who are in the hospital because of attempted or ideated suicide. I thought about the number of families I meet who have lost a daughter, son, uncle, mother, teenager, ... loved-one to suicide and the tragic impact that has had on their lives. I thought about the despair that can drive anyone to consider that suicide an option.

Then, the question "What does our theology say about this?" landed in the center of the table.

That's when one of my interdisciplinary journal club colleagues mentioned the opening quote to this days's blog. I thought about my own despair. How in that state of being, I presumptuously believe or feel that God is not there, that I know best, that my feelings are the center of the universe. Something clicked for me in that moment, that my faith really is the response with which I am called to respond, and I felt relief - and some inclination of my heart toward Love.

In this moment, what does your theology say about despair?

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