by David Sisler

The telephone had been ringing all morning. The district manager checking on the weekend's sales. A customer checking on a repair job promised for that morning. A curious shopper looking for a gold spittoon charm. Two wrong numbers. One of my kids asking if I'd check on a particular item at a particular store. Another wrong number.

Then came the call I never expected. My office manager answered with a cheery greeting, a pause and then she inhaled sharply. She handed me the phone and said, "It's Jim. Something's wrong!"

"I'll take it in the back room," I said and went to the small sanctum that served as an office.

Jim (not his real name) choked out, "David, I just got word from my doctor. I'm HIV positive. I don't know what I'm going to do. I think I'm going to kill myself."

Jim and I had been friends for twenty years. Only the promiscuous and drug users get AIDS, I thought. This can't be true. But it was. Jim had applied for additional life insurance and took the required blood test. And failed it.

We talked and cried. My office manager handled the store without me for over an hour.

Finally, Jim said, "I am going to wait until after Christmas. I don't want to ruin it for my kids. Then I'm going to check into a motel room, take an overdose of pills and never wake up."

I love this man like a brother. God gave me a great "little" brother. I have never had a "big" brother, but if I could have one, and if I could choose, it would be Jim.

"Okay," I said finally, "if that's the way it is. But call me and I'll come sit by your bedside. You might change your mind."

"I won't change my mind," he said, "but I will call you, when it is too late for you to stop me."

Ten years later, Jim is doing great. The last blood test showed the concentration of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was so small that it was almost unreadable. He is confident that at the next test he will be free of this killer. It is a miracle, nothing less.

When Jim worked through the shock, the grief, the anger, he said, "I knew I had only two choices, give up on life or get serious with God." He did the later. It hasn't been easy. Pneumocystis pneumonia almost killed him two years ago. A good doctor and the Great Physician pulled him through, but ten years ago Jim was seriously considering ending his own life. He thought of asking a doctor to help him.

Advocates of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide point to the Netherlands as an enlightened society, a utopia for ending one's life.

In his new book, Seduced by Death, Herbert Hendin, M.D., points out that, "The experience of the Dutch people makes it clear that legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia is not the answer to the problems of people who are terminally ill. The Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for people who are terminally ill to euthanasia for those who are chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress, and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia."

Dutch doctors kill, or hasten the death of, 1000 people each year.

The guidelines which were initially put in place to protect society have been modified over and over. Rules governing the procedure are violated with impunity. With the passage of an Oregon law, now being challenged in the courts, our own country has embarked on a course from which, once started, may be unstoppable.

Dr. Hendin states, "Assisted suicide and euthanasia are being marketed as the only ways to achieve both dignity and release from pain. On a life-or-death purchase, people need to know more about what they are buying and how payment will be extracted. Death ought to be hard to sell."

Men and women and young people who learn of a terminal illness are filled with terror and uncertainty and dread. Killing them, or assisting them to kill themselves, is not the answer. God's Son declared that he came to bring life, abundant life, even in dying. If it is death with dignity that we seek, if it is control over our departure that we seek, then we need to leave the time, and the method of the final exit to the Great Physician. Only He knows enough and loves us enough to make that decision.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 4/12/97

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