Desire for ‘natural death’ topic of S.C. Citizens for Life presentation at cathedral


CHARLESTON — The terms “Living Will” or “Will to Live” seem similar enough, but this debate in semantics could mean the difference between life and death, the adult faith formation group at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was told last Sunday morning.

“Living Wills, The Will to Live and Euthanasia: The Growing Threat of Euthanasia in the Culture of Death” was the topic of the final Respect Life month presentation led by Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life (SCCL), and pro-life advocate Wayne Cockfield.

“If you’ve got a ‘Living Will’ tear it up. It’s your death warrant. Get the ‘Will to Live’ form,” Gatling urged the audience.

“Age is a disability,” she said. “People are living longer, but the longer you live the more problems you have.”

Gatling relayed a staggering statistic to highlight the growing culture of death from Roe vs. Wade to euthanasia. In 1942, she said, there were 42 workers to support every retired person. In 2015, there will be 2.3 workers for every retiree.

The SCCL executive director also discussed the media agenda, which she said promotes euthanasia. She drew upon her two decades of experience as a reporter for a daily newspaper, saying “I know how it operates from the inside.”

A video, entitled “Death as a Salesman,” was shown to parishioners. The tape is credited by pro-life forces nationally for helping to defeat a recent pro-euthanasia referendum in Maine by a narrow 55 to 45 percent margin.

Gatling then turned the program over to Wayne Cockfield, a retired sergeant in the Marine Corps who lost both his legs in the Vietnam War and is now a national advocate for the disabled.

“We’re at the bottom of the slippery slope, but a lot of people think we’re at the top,” said the resident of Florence.

He talked about the current situation in Oregon, a state where physician-assisted suicide is legal. “The state won’t pay for pain medication for people suffering from cancer, but medication for them to kill themselves is paid for. That’s not exactly a free choice for suicide.”

The pro-life advocate also reviewed a Virginia law, the Health Care Decision Act of 1992, that denies care to critically ill patients. If patients are denied care, said Cockfield, their only recourse is to go before an Ethics Board. If they are given the “thumbs down” by that group, he said, they are given three weeks to find another doctor or hospital to provide treatment, which rarely happens. He called Ethics Boards “very dangerous to people who are chronically ill and sick.”

Cockfield then described the differences between the South Carolina “Will to Live” and “Living Will” documents.

“In the ‘Living Will,’ people do not understand what it says,” he said. “The wording is vague, and that’s intentional. Terms can mean a lot of different things.”

Cockfield went on to discuss the varying definitions of terminally ill, permanent unconsciousness, attending physician, reasonably short period of time, nutrition and hydration, and surgically implanted tubes. He said many people do not know that nutrition and hydration means food and water or that surgically implanted tubes includes intravenous tubes (IVs).

“It [the Living Will] is dishonest and dangerous. People do not understand what is happening. The death ethic is so strong people will tell you they don’t want to live if they are sick. On the outside looking in you have no idea. On the other side, you learn very quickly.”

He told a story of visiting a car dealership in Florence when he was 15 years old and seeing a profoundly disabled man. “I remember saying to myself, ‘If I was ever like that, I wouldn’t want to live.’ I look back now, and I’m more disabled than the man I remembered seeing. Happiness has nothing to do with physical perfection. Quality of life can mean anything you want it to mean.”

Cockfield concluded by saying, “Euthanasia is not for people who are dying, it is for people who will not die. There is a difference between a dying person and someone being killed.”