A question Joni Eareckson Tada has been asking over the years is “When Is It Right to Die?” That is the title of her book which has recently been updated. She understands this issue for many reasons. One of the most significant is the fact that she has spent more than 50 years in her wheelchair.
She was on my radio program recently to talk about the latest edition of her book. She is concerned that society is more and more willing to accept the idea that a person has a “right to die.” I even talked about the pressure many with disabilities face where there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) comments that imply they have a “duty to die.”
I also asked Joni to remind our audience that after her accident 50 years ago, she wanted to die. A diving accident as a teenager, she said, left her permanently paralyzed and in deadly despair. She even tried (with no success) to break her neck higher so she would die. She understands why many would want to end their lives, but also believes we can provide hope and comfort to those who are convinced suicide is the only answer.
In a related article she wrote for Christianity Today she talked about speaking to a high-school class about euthanasia and suicide. One young man described how demoralized his mom was in caring for his sister who was developmentally delayed. He said society “should do something.” Joni asked him, “How have you helped alleviate the burden?” She went on to explain his mom wouldn’t be so demoralized if he helped. The student immediately realized he might be part of the answer.
The point she was making is that suicide and euthanasia are everyone’s responsibility. This is especially true in a world where more and more states are willing to legalize euthanasia and put to death people who are discouraged and depressed and ready to die.