It always surprises me how many of my co-workers say, "Shoot me if I ever get like that," referring, of course, to being elderly, ill, incapacitated and in need of care. I always question them on their statement, asking if they really mean it. The invariable answer is, "Yes. I want my spouse to do me in if I ever get like that. If my quality of life ever gets so poor that I have to wear diapers and be in a care home then life would not be worth living."
This usually leads to a whole conversation about the sanctity of life and how God has the ultimate authority over when life ends. I remind them they will probably change their mind when they actually reach an advanced age where their days are numbered, and I often tell them to have lots of kids in the meantime so there will always be a family member to look after them. It is rare though, that I find agreement with my opinions; just about as rare as finding a pro-life paramedic to work or share a conversation with. So far I have stopped short of telling them about the spiritual value of suffering - I think a person needs to have faith to understand it.
Tomorrow, however, will be different. I will be attending a pro life seminar featuring Dr John M. Haas STL MDiv, and Fr Tadeusz Pacholczyk PhD, of the National Catholic Bioethics Center of Philadephia. This will be a rare opportunity for me to hear pro-life medical viewpoints about the sanctity of life, from life's conception to its natural end. I just may come away with some new ammunition to sway the opinions of those who think ending a life of suffering is a personal choice to be made by the individual who is doing the suffering.
It is often said that paramedics become jaded with time, being exposed as we are to so much trauma, suffering, psychosis, violence, drug abuse, etc.
I will never become jaded. How can I make such a bold statement when the burn-out rate is so high for people in my profession? The answer is faith. Illness and suffering take on a whole new perspective when one one looks at it as the will of God. If only people who were ill realized the value of this trial that God has sent them! I have been exposed to much pain, suffering, illness and sadness through the trials of other people, and I view this as a gift from God. It will strengthen me to face my own trials with faith. Being a paramedic is a position God has put me in to help me on the path to salvation. If, by chance or the grace of God, I can help others along the same path, I have done my job well.