By Anna Olson
When I look into the subject of assisted suicide, I find abundant material from the pro-choice and the pro-life sides – but not much attention by anyone on spiritual realities. Many on the pro-choice side don’t believe in life after death; they believe we live a life, the body dies, and that’s it. The pro-life people talk about God being the only arbiter of life and death but give no information on how different kinds of death affect the spirit of the person.
I admit my bias here: I believe in life after death. I have communicated with spirit entities enough to be assured that my spirit will continue to live on in another dimension after my physical death. I prefer the word ‘transition’ to ‘death’ to describe what happens at the end of our earthly life.
I also lean towards the pro-choice side of the debate even though there are several downsides to an early exit if we can believe the statements attributed to spirits, detailed below. I think it’s important for people to make their own choices, to think it through for themselves how and when they want to die.
Pamela Rae Heath and Jon Klimo have done a huge amount of work collecting material dealing with the spiritual side of suicide, which they present in the book, Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife? Channeled Conversations with the Dead (North Atlantic Books, 2006). Besides assisted suicide, they deal with traditional suicide, murder-suicide, and suicide bombers. “Suicide by cop” is another form of suicide that has surfaced in recent years, where a person deliberately provokes a law enforcement officer to kill him or her.
In Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife? Heath and Klimo have gathered channeled messages from spirits of people who died through some form of suicide, and from spirit guides who help other spirits in the afterlife. (A definition of channeling: a person on earth is able to converse with the spirit of someone who has died or a spirit guide. The channeler either writes down what a spirit is saying or speaks into a tape recorder and then transcribes.)
The channeler’s prejudices can taint the message. Heath and Klimo do not guarantee accurate channeling – in fact, in a few places they point out what might be the channeler’s feelings coming through. In all, I think the authors attempt to give an overview of the wide range of messages that have come through various channelers, without being dogmatic as to what the reader should believe. For example, the authors point out a pronouncement that may have come from the mind of the channeler rather than from a spirit: “It [euthanasia] is not according to God’s Laws, and he will not forgive it.”
In Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife? Heath and Klimo give the source of all their quotes – but here, for brevity’s sake, I will just give concepts and some quotes.
The spirit statements vary from acceptance of euthanasia when there is a long period of physical suffering and lack of a will to live – to regret that something was lost by an early exit.
One argument against euthanasia (from the spirit’s point of view) is that it is harder on the spirit than a natural death. “The euthanasia of terminally ill patients may be a shock to the system, which causes the soul to have to adjust a great deal more than would otherwise be necessary.”
Losing opportunities for emotional growth is another argument against premature death. Those who leave through suicide or assisted suicide “will experience some sadness that they let go of the opportunity for learning.” Another spirit says, “One never really knows until after the fact (when the soul learns the truth of the situation in the afterlife) whether something valuable was lost with cutting your suffering short.”
Some are concerned about their families. “In the case of terminally ill or elderly persons, some are sick and want to save their families time, money, and heartache by committing suicide. These people are unaware of the spiritual side of their actions. Perhaps before coming into the physical plane, family members set up certain conditions and situations in order to work out their group karma. Or they needed to experience being of service to the one who is ill.” (One definition of karma: the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person's deeds in the previous incarnation.)
More benefits of a natural death: “How do we know that a soul didn’t choose to go through an experience of a fatal illness in order to burn away karma? If we cut short someone’s natural time on earth, we never know whether something valuable could have been learned or whether such an experience was necessary to reach a new spiritual plateau.”
If people opt out too soon, “one consequence might be that they would lose the opportunity to practice the suffering that is needed for them to develop greater compassion for others.”
We need to feel useful and it’s painful if we don’t. “Part of the trauma [of being on life support] being that when the pattern for that life is over, why should the physical instrument [the body] be maintained? When the time of purposefulness has ended, then there is a certain vacuum, a certain lack, in that which lies ahead, and prolongation of the physical instrument is a painful process, part of the pain being its purposelessness.”
One person’s illness is another person’s chance to provide care. “There can be a long terminal illness, which may be an opportunity to experience the love of others in the care given, and the progressive love of society providing care. [It’s important] to judge each case individually.”
One spirit pointed out that “there is a difference between no longer artificially prolonging life – hence allowing a natural death to occur – and an act of euthanasia performed because a person is old and tired and finding life hard.”
Heath and Klimo note: “But once passed, these souls insist that is was necessary, both for us and for them, that the spiritual lesson of pain and suffering prior to passing be learned. A loved one in the hereafter says they would gladly endure their pain again to gain the same reward in the hereafter. They also acknowledge that no matter how bad things got, all of it was necessary for the completion of their lessons on the earth. ‘If I had to do it again to get the same reward here, I would in a heartbeat’” (communicated by the spirit of a young woman who died of scleroderma, a very painful skin condition).
* * *** * *
The above are concepts to consider when thinking about assisted suicide for oneself or a loved one. Watching a loved one go through a long, agonizing death can be very painful. But perhaps the dying person and the caregivers gain something on the emotional and spiritual side that they weren’t aware of at the time.
It’s interesting that loss of dignity rates highest in a Dutch study (1991) that asked patients requesting euthanasia to give their reasons (quoted by Heath and Klimo). Here is a breakdown of their answers: loss of dignity (57 percent); pain (46 percent); pain, when it is the only reason given (5 percent); when the nature of one’s dying seems unworthy (46 percent); having to be dependent on others (33 percent); and being tired of life (23 percent).
Dignity is an emotional term. It covers being able to sustain one’s normal life, finances, health, and self-care (bathing and toileting). People have different tolerances for lack of independence. Some consider it undignified to be dependent on others for the basics of life and so would rather die early than go through such an experience. Perhaps if they knew they might benefit spiritually by waiting for a natural death, they would be willing to go through pain and discomfort to reach that goal.
The concept of spirit reaction to assisted suicide (and suicide in general) is fascinating. If you’re interested in looking into this more deeply, I hope you will read Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife? by Pamela Rae Heath and Jon Klimo.Anna Olson is a Winnipeg freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.