Sunday, 28 May 2017

Former Catholic priest, 78, takes his own life with assisted suicide after being diagnosed with incurable paralysis disease - and films his dying moments
·         John Shields, 78, died by medical assistance on March 24 in Victoria, Canada
·         He allowed the New York Times to film the controversial last moments of his life  
·         He was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare and incurable disease in 2015
·         The condition would rob him of the use of his limbs and stop his heart
·         Shields chose to die by legal lethal injection in order to die on his own terms
·         He was a former Catholic priest and the Catholic Church is against the practice

John Shields, 78, decided to die by the controversial method of assisted suicide - and allowed the New York Times to film his dying moments. 
The former Catholic priest didn't let the Church's stance against the practice dictate how he chose to die and still had a spiritual poem read before he was euthanized. 
Shields was diagnosed with the incurable and painful disease of amyloidosis in the fall of 2015, which would rob him of the use of his limbs. 
As his condition worsened, he felt dejected and powerless until last year when he learned that he qualified for Canada's medical assistance dying program.
Shields, from Victoria, British Columbia, chose to die by medical assistance because he didn't want to lose his sense of dignity and this would allow him to die on his own terms.  
In an intimate look at assisted suicide, the New York Times videotaped the last moments of Shields' life before he willingly had a lethal injection on March 24.
He said to the New York Times: 'One quality of life that’s important to me is my dignity — and sparing anxiety for my wife and daughter.'
Speaking of how he would be unable to care for himself and be fed through a feeding tube, he added: 'All of those painful and demeaning things. I considered beyond the threshold of how I would like to live.' 
Shields was diagnosed with amyloidosis after he blacked out while driving and crashed into a tree.
A few months after the accident, doctors were able to identify through a heart biopsy, that his disease caused his heart to temporarily stop, causing the blackout.
The hereditary form of the painful condition, which is caused by an abnormal buildup of the protein amyloid, would eventually lead to no feeling in his arms or legs and ultimately stop his heart.
Shields said he knew he didn't want to die this way.
Shields' wife, Robin June Hood, said to the newspaper: 'We are befriending death. We're hold it. We're witnessing it. We are taking it back into our own hands.'
The night before he died, Shields held a large Irish wake in his hospice room - the only one in the area - where he was bedridden for the last few weeks of his life.
He had drinks and takeout brought in from one of his favorite restaurants, and his friends and family gathered around the elderly man as he beamed at them from his bed.
The video of his wake was filled with laughter and guests shared memories of the impact Shields had on their lives. After the farewell, Shields was rolled out of the room.
In the morning he was given the doses of lethal injection and was then taken home to his garden by his wife and step-daughter. 

Doctor Stefanie Green gave Shields the option of assisted medical death, which was passed into law by Canada in June 2016.
It requires the patient to be terminally ill in order for them to qualify.
The law, drafted after Canada's Supreme Court last year overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide, must receive formal approval from Governor General David Johnston, the acting head of state. That process is a formality.
The law is limited to residents who qualify for government-funded health services, which is an attempt to prevent people from crossing the border to obtain an assisted-suicide.
Assisted suicide is currently legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Albania, Colombia and Japan.
It is also legal in the US states of Washington, California, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. 

Brittany Maynard was terminally ill when she decided to die at age 29. 
She brought national attention when she ended her life in 2014 under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which was put in place in 1997.
A total of 991 people have died in Oregon under this act, as of January 27, 2016.  
A new study by the University Health Network in Toronto examined medically assisted death in Canada and determined that it was 'existential distress' that led people to chose this option, not the pain of the disease itself. 
They were suffering more mentally than physically, with several worried about the strain they cause on their families. 

A study examining the first year Oregon had the law, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999, said: 'Many physicians reported that their patients had been decisive and independent throughout their lives or that the decision to request a lethal prescription was consistent with a long-standing belief about the importance of controlling the manner in which they died.' 
PAT SAYS This is a very complicated issue. I do believe that people have the right to assisted and voluntary euthanasia. I think the politicians, lawyers and medics need to address this issue in all countries. On two occasions in my priestly like people asked me if I would be prepared to help them get away. In the kindest and most loving way possible I said "No". Presently I cannot ever see myself wanting to go this way. But with the proper controls and safeguards I do not think that we should force people who are in terminal decline to go on suffering and be in pain. We don't do it for the pets we love.


  1. MourneManMichael29 May 2017 at 00:42

    I entirely agree with John Shield's stance on this issue. I have made my own 'living will', to the effect that if I am non conscious/respondent and entirely reliant on artificial/machine dependent means of sustaining my life, then, as I've put it, "Switch the machines off, and go with no regrets to enjoy a good drink and celebrate that I've had a good innings".
    Perhaps now at 73, the age at which my father died, the many issues surrounding death intrigue me, especially the RC church's reactions and responses to its reality.
    Why, just to take one example, do RC clergy and believers pray for the souls of the dead, often years after the death, for example at 'cemetery Sundays?' What's the point when, according to RC beliefs, once dead the 'soul' either goes 'up to heaven', 'down to hell', or 'burns for a bit' in that in-between purgatory place? I'm afraid the whole RC rationale is a mish-mash of wishful thinking on the part of the 'laity', but siezed upon by the clerical class as a fruitful means of control and a steady stream of financial benefit.

    1. As a man who claims to have studied for the priesthood and had some theological training, your caricature of the Church's teaching on the praying for the dead is beneath contempt.

      We pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory because we are united with them in love - beyond death - and our prayers on their behalf, in the body of Christ, assists them on their journey of purification.

      All of this is founded upon the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ taught by St Paul.

      Those in Heaven have no need of our prayers - they pray for us.

      Those in Hell cannot be helped by our prayers as they have deliberately chosen separation

      (The Church has never said that anyone is in Hell as God alone is able to know the full extent of a person's freedom and choice).

      The Holy Souls CAN be helped by our prayers and they also pray for us.

    2. Thank you for that @ poster 10.54. It is a calm and balanced reminder from someone who has obviously no axe to grind.

    3. 10:54, 'the Church has never said that anyone is in Hell...'. Not in so many words, perhaps. But in other ways, it most certainly has. Those, like John Hus, who were burned at the stake, alive and 'unrepentant', would have been considered damned.

    4. The Church is very clear, Magna Carta. The identity of the damned is known only to God. Even excommunication (a temporal disciplinary measure) does not carry over into eternity.

    5. 11:18, is there anyone on here who doesn't have an axe to grind? MMM's axe is certainly weighty. And as for Maggie......

    6. St JP2 apologised for Hus. They burned Savanarola too. Only God knows who is saved. The Church has no authority in that realm. And that is the Church's own teaching.

    7. No, 12:09: the Church, at the time, considered the sacraments as the sole conduits of God's grace. An excommunicate, lije Hsu, was denied sacramental ritual and, therefore, the grace it conveyed (along, of course, with salvation).

      You are speaking of modernity ('the Church IS very clear...'.); I was not.

    8. By the way, 12:09, the Church still considers wilful heresy ('formal' rather than 'material' heresy) a grave sin, in other words, a mortal sin.

      Unrepentant mortal sin results in damnation. Hus was unrepentant: he did not recant his so-called 'heresies'. Therefore, contrary to what you believe, the Church would have considered him damned.

    9. 13:02, your post demonstrates how fallibly 'infallible' the 'Church' really is.

    10. MourneManMichael29 May 2017 at 13:45

      Thank you Anon @10:54, for now that I'm 50+years departed seminary 'theological teaching', I'm obviously not up to date with current RC church theological thinking convolutions as some, perhaps like yourself?
      [And at this point I would just say that although I did not realise it at the time, the level of intellectual rigour the seminary demanded was abysmally low if compared to my subsequent experience at Scottish and English universities.]

      But leaving that aside, although surely it's relevant for some clerics 'educated' solely within traditional seminary training, I have used the word 'convolutions' intentionally above, for that's what it seems like to the outsider like myself.
      The RC church presents as a decrepit organisation justifying its existence through a mishmash of biblical reliant writings the origins of which let alone their interpretation and validity continue to be hotly contested even by the alleged scholarly experts. Further, linked to this are the religious pronouncements of past and present clerics allegedly guided by a god or spirit for whose existence there is no proof. The absence of proof is supposedly unnecessary if one has that 'catch-all quality' of "faith."
      This farrago of a belief system like many other religions, capitalises and feeds of the back of humankinds' insecurity concerning the inevitable reality of death.
      I'm surprised that the RC church has not yet resurrected a purgatorial relief tariff linked to the number of funeral masses said, and paid for, or the number of rosary decades prayed etc etc.
      But maybe the Lutheran reaction to indulgence purchases has killed that wheeze off for good?

  2. I certainly get the sense of a mish-mash of thinking...

  3. Well said MMM, I think Therefore I am...

    1. MourneManMichael29 May 2017 at 13:56

      Yes Descartes made some very interesting observations. However I see his progression from 'Cogito ergo sum' to a belief in God one that I cannot follow. I do like his observation:
      "It is not enough to have a good mind, the main thing is to use it well. If you would be a seeker after truth it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

  4. As you say it is a complicated issue. The underlying question is what control is the church entitled to over the law of the state. The answer is none. The church is meant to lead by example not forced control. Why did Jesus heal on the Sabbath. Why did the disciples eat grain on the Sabbath. What was Jesus attitude to the law of the land...

    1. As always, you raise some good points, Sean. It brings us right back to the fact that the more harmony and agreement that there is between Church and State, the easier life is for everyone. People in their choices and daily decisions are not been pulled in conflicting directions if Church and State are not presenting them with mixed messages. There is no getting away from that. Then without the worry of breaking our own moral codes etc, we can happily do what Jesus advised(--re/your final question in your post) and "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

  5. 00.42 MMM I have to agree praying for the dead in the way you suggest is a money making exercise​

  6. The Nuns are backing out of the maternity hospital in Dublin-Just on radio

    1. Thank God! At last, some integrity from a Catholic religious order. (I don't wish to appear cynical by saying 'they succumbed instead to public and political pressure.)

    2. They did not withdraw voluntarily.

      Public opinion forced the issue.

  7. As a Priest, I have already made the decision to end my life if suffering becomes too intolerable. I wouldn't ask anyone to do it for me because that would be cruel but I'm more than prepared to do it myself. Controversial, I know, but sometimes we have to be realistic about these matters.

    1. God bless. Trust in Him completely and don't try to manipulate or force an outcome.
      You may have underestimated your own strength. (Things will always look different when you pause to take stock from where you have reached on your mountain) Be not afraid..

    2. Your comment at 12:52, if in fact you are - as you claim to be - a priest - you prove Pat Buckley's often stated belief that some Catholic priests are actually atheists.

      May God forgive you and have mercy on your soul.

      Between perverts on the one hand and charlatans like you on the other, the priesthood is in dire straits.

    3. 17:09, how does wanting to avoid excessive and excruciating suffering make one an atheist?

    4. Why would I deliberately lie about being a Priest, I was being honest about the topic in question. Perhaps you would have preferred me to be dishonest about it. As MC correctly observes, how does my opinion make me an atheist?

    5. Father, I believe that you are a priest and NOT an atheist.

      I spoke about this topic in my homily in The Oratory yesterday and showed the video of Father John Shields to my congregation.

      One of the things I said was:

      "If I ride the "bucking bronco" to the end and manage to join my terminal sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus on Calvary he will say to me: "Well done good and faithful servant".

      But if I cannot do that and conclude things earlier by my own hand and then apologise when I meet him for not being able to ride the "bucking bronco" he will say me to:

      "No need to apologise. I finished you suffering for you myself".

    6. What a load of mawkish, self pitying, cowardly old claptrap! Your life is not your own to take. You are not your own property. You have been bought and paid for. Get over yourselves. It's only dying you are doing. Everyone has to do it. It's a transitional process. Grow a pair of balls!

    7. Er, dopey at 19:21, he isn't trying to avoid death.

      Never mind 'balls', grow a brain.

    8. I didn't say he was trying to avoid death you nasty old sow. He won't avoid death in any case. I'm saying face death whatever way it comes with courage. Life belongs to God. Have some faith.

    9. You said, dopey, 'it's only dying'. He knows this, and isn't making an issue if it.

      Keep your eye on the ball, old bean.

  8. Five deacons ordained in Gaynooth yesterday by Abp Neary of Tuam. Fanny, the Pryer and Mick the Extractor all present and correct. No sign of Cowboy "the dog ate me homework" Connolly.

  9. I believe that people in this modern age are talking about end of life quite openly and honestly.
    For some it's not to be the usual suspect defences such as being a burden, the indignity of being nursed, the onset of age related diseases, the quality of life. I don't think there are any of us who haven’t talked about it.
    The problem of course arises when we try to bring God into the equation or man made rules harboured in religions.
    Don't get me wrong I think the advances of medicine and medical procedures are brilliant without them I would surely have died 26 years ago, never mind the multilevel drug regime that I am on just to keep me alive today in my early 50's.
    But the topic is very much a Western World one, for as we know in the "" other worlds you'd be left to demise happily at own leisure so to speak.
    Me as a burden well I've paid my taxes all my life but you to maintain my current quality of life it works out to just over £3500 per month, some would say money well spent; others not.
    As for my own personal demise yeah I look forward to it, instructions and more so agreement with the wife is that I am a do not resuscitate if we both feel or that she feels my quality of life is such that to pass over would be the best thing.
    Next week I head for another heart procedure that the consultant said for most people it's a 1 in a 1000 chance of dying in the process but for me the odds are 1 in 300 of dying. I erupted into loud laughter when he said this. With the look of concern on his face I had to put himout of his misery and I told him that those odds were better than the 1 in a 100 that he gave me last time.
    Call it clique but I feel we have to talk about death as a friend and not a dirty secret. As part of my ministry I have met with many people who have been just given the news of X months or X years and it's amazing, beautiful and a whole lot of other nice words that could be said about such but the best I've heard to date was from a young woman who beamed, smilING proudly as she said.


    1. God bless,Hank and I wish you the very best of luck!
      You won't go before your time and who knows what good work would go into eternity undone unless Hank does it as intended!

  10. We are all close behind you. Leonard Cohen's letter to Marriann in her last few days is very lovely.

  11. Are there not value in suffering or do we have to run away from every thing and see no value in anything. Christ suffered for us and went through it.

    1. There is great value in suffering.

      But not all are called to suffer equally.

  12. That is right, Pat and suffering can be mental or physical or both. I don't think we will fully understand it this side of eternity but I do know that, like Nicodemus, we are sometimes chosen to put our shoulder to the Cross.
    Perhaps it is in those moments that we turn to God and become closer to Him. His presence becomes more real to us. Maybe it's a way in which we can make restitution for the pain we have caused others and a means by which we help the Holy Souls so that they can in turn help us. Cecily.

  13. Every time that aul doll Carter opens her bake on here, I find myself thinking 'that aul trout sounds awful familiar' - but I can't place her.

    It's like when you see somebody and you know that you know them from somewhere but, for the life of you, you can't remember where. Usually, you remember all of a sudden much later on.

    I am waiting for that moment of recognition coming to me as to the identity of Maggie, the aul' beg lol

    1. Anon at 19:31, you will find out what Ms Carter looks like here - Big Lily tuck this on her new iPhone a few days ago.

    2. 'Moment of recognition'? It's way beyond you, dear.

    3. Hey Maggie .... big knowing wink ;-)

    4. More like self deception. 😆

    5. Now don't be horrible about Magna Carta, who's had a hard day at work :

    6. Maggie the Meter Maid LOL

  14. From Cecily.. cont'd.
    Apologies, I meant to write "like Simon of Cyrene" in my previous post.

    (I had been writing a treatise on Nicodemus earlier in the evening and blame my error on that!)