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Death with Dignity laws allow a terminally ill patient to hasten an inevitable and unavoidable death. It's not suicide nor euthanasia; rather, a possible option if the pain from the underlying illness gets to be too much or quality of life too degraded.

While many faith traditions adhere to ancient traditions and understandings of physical life's final journey, modern medical technology has provided new information opening the door for faith leaders to actively reconsider some beliefs. Disease and terminal illness represent less mystery now, and are more associated with scientific and technological problem solving.

Death with Dignity laws offer dying individuals an opportunity to ponder an important final life question, "What is the meaning of my life?" For many, this is a profoundly spiritual question, and answers come, not when an individual is consumed by a flurry of doctor's appointments, treatments or tests, but in the comfort of solitude when an individual feels at peace.

Below you'll find blog posts which discuss the religious and spiritual aspects of death and dying.

Faith and the End of Life

This guest post is from Barbara Karnes, award-winning end-of-life educator and nurse who has been instrumental in creating the patient/family educational booklet for hospice. A former hospice nurse, director, and consultant, Barbara is the author of the booklets A Time to Live: Living with a Life Threatening Illness; Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience; The Eleventh Hour: A Caring Guideline for the Hours to Minutes before Death; My Friend I Care: The Grief Experience; the book The Final Act of Living: Reflections of a Long Time Hospice Nurse and a family-oriented DVD/booklet kit New Rules For End of Life Care. She blogs at Something to Think About where a version of this post originally appeared.

The definition of the word faith from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:

Read more: Faith and the End of Life

Life with Dignity

This guest post is from Karen Kaplan, who in 1992 became one of the the first 200 female rabbis in the world. In 2007 she became a board-certified chaplain and served in hospices on the East Coast for 7 years. She is the author of the book Encountering The Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died which consists of true quirky stories about her hospice patients and what they most cared about and believed in (the book is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold, as a softcover or as an ebook; excerpts and reviews are available at the website of Pen-L Publishing.). Karen also blogs at Offbeat Compassion.*

Read more: Life with Dignity

A Christian Argument For Physician Assisted Death

Rainbow by Rachel Coyle

Brittany Maynard's story has prompted discussions about our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, throughout the US. Over the last week, we've heard from hundreds of people in support of Death with Dignity. The guest post below by Rachel Coyle is republished with permission. The article originally appeared on Rachel's blog, Of a Moderation.

I have watched a lot of people die.

After college, I spent nearly two years providing patient care in the emergency department of a Level 1 trauma center. Today, I work with hospice patients, offering comfort to those who have 6 months or less to live.

I am also blessed with a big, loving, Catholic family. Our faith has played a major role in shaping each of us throughout the years.

In fact, it's safe to say religion has played a major role in every aspect of my life.

Yet I firmly believe in the right of our terminally ill to die with dignity.

Read more: A Christian Argument For Physician Assisted Death

Intimate Conversations about Love and Loss

Encountering the Edge by Karen Kaplan

Karen Kaplan is an ordained rabbi and served as a hospice chaplain for seven years. Learn more about Encountering the Edge and read book excerpts on the publisher's site or Amazon. You can also see Karen's own blog, Offbeat Compassion.

Death with Dignity National Center's Melissa Barber asked me as I prepared this post, "Why did you write this book?" This is something every author should keep in mind throughout the writing process. It implies, among many other things, that a solidly cogent answer must precede the genesis of any worthwhile book.

While writing my hospice chaplain memoir, I kept in mind how the author of Ecclesiastes admonished his son: "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." And I was acutely conscious of needing abundant justification for writing Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died.

Melissa's question is also an excellent tool for self-reflection. It's one thing to explain what a reader might get out of it, and quite another for authors to delve into the spiritual reasons underlying their endeavors. (The psychological reason is yet another dimension, and this is dealt with in the book.) I'll now endeavor to take on both challenges.

Read more: Intimate Conversations about Love and Loss

Let Me Make Up My Own Mind

Joan Tollifson

Death with Dignity supporter Joan Tollifson sent the email below to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) about her dismay at the direction the organization has taken in recent years.

Dear Friends,

I am an amputee. I worked long ago at the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley and was active in the disability rights movement. I was inside the Federal Building for the entire month of the 504 occupation. I have been deeply saddened in recent years to see the disability rights movement, which I love, align itself with the most conservative religious forces in our country and oppose things like assisted death, which I fully support.

I'm 65, and if I end up with a painful, terminal illness, I welcome the right to legally terminate my own life. I've been with friends who made this decision, and I know that in Oregon, it cannot be made lightly—there are more safeguards in place and hoops to jump through than you can imagine. I know how deeply grateful those friends were to have this option.

Read more: Let Me Make Up My Own Mind


Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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