Philippe Pozzo di Borgo is the subject of the delightful French film “The Intouchables.”

In 1993 di Borgo was a 42-year-old high flying executive and French aristocrat, the director of the Pommery Champagne House when a paragliding accident left him with a life no one would choose. Three years after his accident di Borgo’s wife was killed in an accident and di Borgo, now alone and completely paralyzed from the neck down and suffering frequent attacks of “phantom pain”  was plunged into a terrible depression.

He admits that at this time he

once tried to commit suicide.

Di Borgo still suffers from “phantom pain” which he describes as

very real. It’s a neurological pain. Scalding and corrosive. Constantly on fire. I cry because I am in actual pain.

And yet, when asked if he still thinks of suicide, he replies,

No, I have completely stopped thinking about it…

Then he adds,

I would be very sad if I had succeeded in killing myself 19 years ago, because I have enjoyed the 19 years that came after that.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/9509665/Untouchable-the-true-story-that-inspired-a-box-office-hit.html

The problem with successful suicide is that it is irreversible. It leaves no opportunity for a change of heart. It closes all possible other doors.

Today the Montreal Gazette is carrying a letter written by the Anglican Bishops of Quebec and Montreal calling upon the PQ Government in the province to withdraw Bill 52 legalizing “medical aid in dying”.

The letter is worth reading in light of di Borzo’s experience.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/Letter+Anglican+bishops+call+upon+Quebec+withdraw+medical+dying+bill/9037170/story.html

Letter: Anglican bishops call upon Quebec to withdraw ‘medical aid in dying’ bill

The GazetteOctober 15, 2013 9:52 AM

Christian thought through the ages has been guided by the principle that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and our life is to be seen as a gift entrusted to us by God. Life is thus seen as something larger than any individual person’s ownership of it, and is not simply ours to discard.

While we recognize there is a diversity of opinion about euthanasia, both within our church and in society at large, the Christian vision of human dignity and community gives rise to some profound misgivings about the Quebec government’s Act Respecting End-of-Life Care, which will allow physicians to administer “terminal palliative sedation” or “medical aid in dying” to patients who request it.

We acknowledge the emotional and challenging circumstances that have led the government to consider the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. We share, with other members of society, concern for the protection of human persons from chronic pain and respect for human dignity.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe that the legalization of euthanasia in Quebec could present special risks for those in our society who are already vulnerable, especially the elderly, those suffering from clinical depression, and those with disabilities.

While we appreciate the legislation’s implication that palliative care should be available to all people. Indeed, good medical practice sustains the commitment to care even when it is no longer possible to cure. Such care may involve the removal of therapies or treatments that are ineffective and/or intolerably burdensome to the patient.

However, we cannot support the idea that care can include an act or omission whose primary intention is to end a person’s life. Such a notion asks our physicians to transform from ministers of healing to agents of death. Both the request for assistance in committing suicide, and the provision of such assistance, must be taken seriously as a failure of human community.

The Christian response is always one of hope. From this hope there arises the commitment to give all members of society, especially the most vulnerable, the assurance that they will be supported in all circumstances of their lives. This means they will neither have dehumanizing medical interventions forced upon them nor that they will be abandoned in their suffering.

We therefore call upon the government to withdraw Bill 52 and focus energy and resources on making authentic palliative care universally accessible throughout Quebec.

The Right Reverend Dennis Drainville, Bishop of Quebec

The Right Reverend Barry B. Clarke, Bishop of Montreal

Anglican Church of Canada

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