Is pain the greatest enemy?



Recently I was part of a discussion group that looked at various aspects of medical ethics. During the conversations we had, many of us reflected on personal encounters with pain whether they be physical, mental or emotional. In the midst of this the seminar leader shared the story of a couple who had been told they were expecting a baby with Edwards syndrome- a condition that meant his life expectancy would be short. They were presented with the possibility of a termination on receipt of this news. For them, though, this was no dilemma. Their Christian faith led them to continue with the pregnancy and so a boy was born. We were told that in his brief life he brought much joy to many people. Indeed when he died some months later friends were moved to bring stories of how their lives had been changed by meeting this dependant bundle of personhood. Such accounts reminded me that  there is much to be learned through suffering. It is not something we welcome but it is an opportunity for us to recognise that we are not in complete control of our lives. And that leads us to further questions about humanity and the existence of God. We should shrink back from becoming complacent or fatalistic but we can resist the clamour for assisted dying. A compassionate response demands improved investment in the hospice movement and our world leading palliative care. Is pain the worst thing we can face? Or is a society that determines when our quality of life has dipped below acceptable?


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