Death with Dignity - Background
Unitarian Universalists (UUs) have a long and powerful history of belief and action promoting Death with Dignity legislation. Back in 1988, way ahead of its time, UU General Assembly voted a resolution stating in part:
Guided by our belief as Unitarian Universalists that human life has inherent dignity, which may be compromised when life is extended beyond the will or ability of a person to sustain that dignity; and believing that it is every person's inviolable right to determine in advance the course of action to be taken in the event that there is no reasonable expectation of recovery from extreme physical or mental disability… Unitarian Universalists <should> inform and petition legislators to support legislation that will create legal protection for the right to die with dignity, in accordance with one's own choice.
Each of Unitarian Universalism’s Seven Principles offer support for providing end of life options, allowing for individual choice. People make choices within the options available to them- that is how they craft their dignity and worth. Dignity is not a matter of surviving as long as possible, receiving supportive care (e.g., being fed or toileted when you are no longer able to do these things for yourself), refusing supportive care (refusing to be fed when you can no longer feed yourself), being able bodied or dying “with your boots on.” Dignity is achieved by doing what you can, what you choose, with the choices available to you.
Compassion leads us to offer the full range of options for end of life care and choices around dying. The full range of options includes state-of-the-art medical support provided to all (universal health care) through superb hospice and palliative care, and moves to aid in dying. Compassion for others is one reason that as many choices at the end of life as possible must be made available.
We are not accepting one another if someone can determine how someone else will die. Limiting options at the end of life, and most assuredly imposing choices of any kind is the opposite of accepting one another. Spiritual growth can come out of the deep reflection needed to decide how you want to die. Thus limiting end of life options can limit this aspect of spiritual growth. Some might conclude that they personally believe that the use of fewer resources at the end of life is a responsible choice given the interdependent web.