Will for Life – Double Down
by Tony Masalonis and Rachel MacNair
This is an updated and expanded version of an article published in Peace and Life Connections on April 25, 2014.
Euthanasia and the death penalty can be connected by taking a stand against both in your personal life. Opponents of these forms of killing have developed documents that anyone can use to assert that they don’t want to be killed by “medical intervention” or medical neglect, nor have anyone be executed in the event they’re killed by criminal homicide.
The National Right to Life committee (NRLC) has put in the great amount of homework needed to create “Will to Live” documents for the United States. These are alternative versions of standard “living wills” that unlike most of those documents, explicitly indicate a desire not to be euthanized. NRLC presents reasons to take this approach, and downloadable documents for each state in the United States that take into account the differing state-by-state laws. People in other countries should also find this information useful in crafting their own documents that work with the laws of their own nation. The documents are designed to have legal status and to provide real protection to prevent anyone opposed to euthanasia, either in general or for him/herself, from falling victim to this form of homicide.
To stand against the death penalty in a personal way, you can sign the “Declaration of Life”. Originally drafted by the Cherish Life Circle (as shown in this New York Times article), a group founded by a member of the Sisters of Mercy, the Declaration says, “I hereby declare that should I die as a result of a violent crime, I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstances, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I may have suffered.”
A number of anti-death penalty groups are promoting the Declaration and have made it available for downloading or copying. These include Unitarian Universalists for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the makers of the film Where There is Darkness, As can be seen on the last link, the filmmakers are also collecting names of folks who have signed the declaration. Their movie chronicles the true story of Fr. Rene Robert, who signed the Declaration and who years later was murdered. The document was instrumental in keeping the perpetrator from being sentenced to death. Although the Declaration document doesn’t have the same legal weight as Will to Live documents, Fr. Robert’s story shows that it can influence court decisions in a life-saving way.
Naturally, we encourage readers to download/copy and sign both documents. Both authors of this post have signed appropriate versions of both of them. For an added witness to the consistent life ethic, get them notarized at the same time, and keep them together with your will and other related documents as connected “wills for life.” It might give your friendly attorney and notary public something to think about!
Another way to promote these potentially life-saving documents in a consistent-life context would be to make them available as a set at houses of worship and other gatherings of action-minded groups. If possible, have your friendly notary handy.
Though all of us who “execute” these papers hope they’ll never have to be used, they represent a creative way to witness for life and against killing, educate others, and give yourself some comfort that you might someday prevent an unjust death – maybe even your own.