Flowers grow in the soil of ashes

Natasha Moore offers some reflections on the appeal of assisted dying - and why Christians are often so wary of it.

They’ve been debating assisted dying in the NSW Parliament today.

It’s a topic I’ve written on before, cautiously. And the more I read about it, the more insistently the word that comes to mind is: sinister.

I don’t doubt the intentions of anybody involved. The stories of difficult deaths are devastating, unanswerable. Sometimes death truly is a mercy. Why not smooth the way, legally and medically? With as many safeguards as possible, of course.

It’s not as though we’re in the vanguard here, though. We can look over the fence – at the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada – and see what’s happened over time to those safeguards.

I read this week about an otherwise healthy Dutch woman who was granted her request for euthanasia due to grief, a year after the death of her husband.

About a 30-year-old woman in Canada with a treatable mental illness whose parents accompanied her to a psychiatrist appointment, afraid that he would agree to her request to end her life.

About dementia patients who write advance directives for euthanasia once their condition deteriorates beyond a certain point – which are carried out even if they actively resist when the time comes.

I wonder if one of the reasons people of faith are so obstinate on this issue is that we’re a bit more used to the idea that we don’t always know what’s best, even for ourselves. That things we dread and strenuously avoid can prove surprisingly bearable. That there is always the possibility of grace, quietly transfigurative. Of new joys, even in the midst of suffering. That sometimes – to quote a favourite song lyric – flowers grow in the soil of ashes. And when we cut off that possibility, we can’t ever know just what was lost.