Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Not Apart, But A Part*

The saddest news story that I’ve stumbled upon the net in the last few days happened in Sidney but I had a feeling that some sectors in Philippine society would like to push the issue of legalized euthanasia for public debate sooner or later. Though it happened some years ago, not unlike the Reproductive Health Bill, this issue will ultimately take the center stage, stir public debates and will haunt us as Filipino believers and citizens in the years to come. Like a tsunami from far away seas that ripple down to foreign shores.

The tragic drowning of a toddler diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a disorder that often leaves patients with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, found a “great irresponsibility”, according to a lengthy investigation of authorities, on the part of the parents of two-year old baby named Maia Comas. Two months before her death, her parents, 36-year-old Pablo Comas and 31-year-old Samantha Razniak were very disappointed with the diagnosis which stated that their daughter having said incurable but non-terminal disease.

Ms. Razniak rattled government social workers by telling them: “Do you understand that she will grow into a young woman and have the mind of a 2 to 10 year old. The head, hands and feet all stop growing. I don’t want to see my daughter become a monster, to become ugly… I’d rather her die now than die slowly.” She continued by saying, “I want to get on with my life and not see all this ugliness – clinics, home disabled people, doctors.” Mr. Comas felt much the same. He once asked a social worker: “Why do they keep children with these disabilities alive? It doesn’t seem fair on the children.”

Why am I imparting you this? On Friday, February 11, 2011, the 19th World Day of the Sick will be commemorated. Catholics celebrate the event along with the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes. In his letter to the bishops of different dioceses, Fr. Luke Moortgat, Executive Secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Health Care, encouraged them to establish diocesan and parochial commission for the handicapped, sick, elderly and dying. He added that, “This will surely serve as strong motivation for us all to care more for those who are now the most forgotten and neglected in our society”. This could be materialized by organizing the so-called 1% Movement from the ranks of professionals geared towards caring for said neglected sectors of our society.

Like Maia Comas, regarding children with incurable diseases, the clergy and lay people are requested to organize the preparation and administration of the sacrament of confirmation for the children with terminal illnesses that could also be a little sign of concern of parents who suffer much.

In his Message Pope Benedict XVI emphasized this challenge:”Dear brothers and sisters, for this World Day of the Sick, I also invite the political authorities to invest more and more in health systems that are a help and a support for the suffering, above all the poorest and the most needy …” But remember that the recently declared over-all champion when it comes to serving the sick is none other than Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997; beatified in 2003; feast day September 5) who was found on the streets washing the wounds of the lepers. And this is what she taught us that, “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

BXVI also invites us to reflect on the mystery of suffering, be sensitive to the sick, care especially for those who suffer, both individuals and society must join hands towards this end. The social teaching called Spe Salvi (No. 38) has this to say : “A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion’ is a cruel and inhuman society."

Just as cruel, irresponsible and selfish as the parents of a that lovely cherubim from Australia named Maia…

(*From the title of CBCP-ECHC Letter. Photo: AP)

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