For many pro-lifers, euthanasia may seem less of an issue than abortion, yet it is a reality that many Canadians face daily and one that is no less horrendous.
One such Canadian is Patrick McGurran. He has been in and out of hospitals, undergoing 61 surgeries on his back, legs and elsewhere, as well as many treatments. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition in which there are multiple joint contractures at birth that limits his range of motion. He has had to use a wheelchair since 1995, his legs are small and short, he has underdeveloped bones and muscles and he cannot straighten his fingers. As his condition progresses, it might begin to affect his organs.
McGurran has had to endure a lifetime of pain and yet he has a zest for life. He demonstrates that people with disabilities are not a burden on society, and are often a prophetic presence pointing toward the great dignity of the human person.
McGurran is a living example of how vulnerable members of our society are threatened by our current culture of death. A doctor has admitted to him that euthanasia has been occurring in Canada for about the past 30 years. He told The Interim that as a disabled individual, “I am definitely treated differently”
He is not supposed to be doing as well as he is doing. At his birth, doctors predicted that he would only live briefly. Now he is 47 years old and living proof why abortion and infanticide are cruelly wrong and unacceptable options to give parents of children with disabilities. But McGurran faces the sinister temptation of euthanasia.
Doctors often get frustrated with his many conditions and symptoms and often just prescribe a pain-killer of some sort. Once, when he was experiencing back pain, he was prescribed medication without any examination. The pain continued to worsen until 911 had to be called. The back pain turned out to be a symptom of a kidney infection.
McGurran’s experience mirrors that of many with disabilities who receive less care and face an unwillingness to treat problems that are often related to their conditions.
Along with carelessness and disrespect, McGurran has endured “professional” suggestions that he should consent to the turning off of life-support systems.
His opinions are not respected. He is told that he is not being realistic, with one doctor suggested that any “normal” person would have “the plug” pulled.
But for McGurran “life is too valuable.” He has been depressed many times and does not intend to sugercoat the suffering he has endured. But he has always come out of those difficult times, either with the aid of someone who was there for him, or by taking the difficulty to prayer with faith and hope.
McGurran wants to live. He has been all over Canada and has had great times with friends. He plays sports with modified equipment and has participated in the special Olympics. He enjoys the company of his dog, Pickles, and they go for “walks.” There is also faith, which he says sustains him with real hope.
If euthanasia becomes legal in Canada, McGurran says that he would be terrified to go to a hospital or a doctor that he did not know. He says that he would be “terrified that my country could do this to me.” He has seen verbal, emotional, and physical abuse against the elderly and disabled, including himself. He believes this would only get worse. The defenseless in society would be a burden that would be disposed of.
But, McGurran has words of hope to those who are suffering and feel “isolated.” He says, “Even though I have contact with friends, I get worried and lonely too.” He sees every day as a positive challenge. He asks himself, “What can I do today?” pointing out that “a little thing can make my day.” He advises, “Don’t get stressed by the whole picture. Look at the present, and pray for something to happen today. Don’t focus on worries about tomorrow.” A simple hug or a child’s smile can make his day. This seems to echo the words of Christian writers such as St. Therese and Mother Teresa, who emphasize the need to focus on today and on the small things in life.
It is precisely this positive attitude that has led McGurran to undergo a home therapy and exercise regimen which might help him walk again with the assistance of crutches and braces. This is a person whom doctors fail to treat properly because of judgements they make about his quality of life and who is beginning to walk again.