October 23, 2008

U.K. parents may be charged for assisting son's suicide

Parents: This post may be extremely troubling for you given the subject matter, assisted suicide of a young man. Please do not read if you think it hit too close to home emotionally.


Mark and Julie James may be charged with assisting their son's suicide, which could be punished by up to 14 years in prison.

Daniel James, a 23-year-old rugby player, was paralyzed from the chest down in an accident during a practice last year. He recently told his parents he couldn't live without being able to play rugby. His parents sympathized and flew with Daniel to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, to help him end his life.

Daniel James

Mark and Julie were not directly involved in the process of Daniel's assisted suicide. Except, of course, if you count their transporting him and supporting his decision to take his own life.

The question is, well.. there are many questions. Is it a moral right, as a Bristish philosopher is asserting, of Daniel's to kill himself? How accountable are his parents in their involvement? Did they, did he, have other options- like counseling or support of fellow rugby-playing parapalegics (one did try to talk with Daniel to empathize)- that were not explored better? Does it make a difference that Daniel was over 18? How old is old enough to decide what to do with your life? For that matter, just whose life is it anyway?

For Christians, our truth is that God gave us our lives and it is His will to decide what to do with them. As frustrated, annoyed, joyed, impatient, thrilled, content, uncertain, or just plain happy we ever are about the turns our lives take, we can rest in God's perfect will. Sometimes that is all we have to rest in. Believe me, I know what that feels like, and I know you do, too. It can be extremely trying of your emotions, not to mention put a great strain on close relationships and even your sanity.

But.. and this is a big but... we can rest in God's will. Which means if we were faced with a huge decision- let's say a life or death decision- we could put it to prayer and search the Scriptures, counsel with our pastors; we can search God for an answer. And if we don't get one, we can wait on Him, knowing He will bring us to the right decision in His time.

You might call that frustrating, but there is great hope is trusting God. You're relying on Him, and who He is, to come through for you. I am not to be trusted, this I am learning; my emotions are erratic and usually don't properly reflect how I really feel about something. So how can I decide what to do if I don't even know how to judge what kind of outcome I want?

For Mark and Julie James this would be a problem, too. How do they know what was "right" for their son? How do they make that choice without their own feelings being tied into it?

Apparently, they were trying to support their son's choice. What a tangled web. How did he conclude it was all over? Rugby was out of the picture; is that enough reason to end one's life?

I don't have any conclusion to this. It burns in my heart and my motherly-instinct to think that parents could chooise to give up their son at the age of 23, and to give up on any more life, better or worse, that he might live. I know he was in incredible pain and had gone through several unsuccessful surgeries to restore feeling to his limbs. But... death was the decision?

Part of me wants to say that Mark and Julie James should have stepped over their son's decision and said no, we won't help you do this, argued for his future. There is a way to say 'no' in love, isn't there? But would that have meant Daniel would take his life in a more painful way, by himself, and die in resentment of his parents? Would that be worse?

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