This week the Daily Mirror shared the inspirational story of Janka Penther. Janka, now 35, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disorder that can cause the lungs to fill with mucus resulting in deadly complications. Janka was not expected to live to her second birthday, but she stunned doctors by growing into an athletic young woman.
The Mirror reports that Janka was an avid sports enthusiast, who played basketball in school and later took up surfing. That changed as her chronic illness worsened. A series of illnesses took a toll on Janka’s already taxed lungs. The progression of the disease left her housebound and unable to walk even short distances due to shortness of breath. Janka says, ”It was like breathing through a straw that’s half covered. You have tight lungs, you feel sick and dizzy from lack of oxygen. You start to think, ‘If I walk somewhere, can I make it back?’”
Meanwhile, many of Janka’s friends were getting married and having children. Unable to enjoy her beloved sports and isolated from social life by her disease, Janka became despondent. She had been so desperate in her suffering, she joined the anti-Life group Dignitas, a radical society that has killed more than 2,000 patients by assisted suicide. The group, located in Switzerland, regularly has members seeking assisted suicide travel from other countries, as Janka would have. Janka says she paid the membership dues and told her father she wanted to travel there to die if her condition worsened.
Thankfully, hope came to Janka in time. Every time she thought of following through with killing herself, “a little voice inside my head would say: ‘Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be better.’”
The anti-Life activists who attempt to legalize and normalize assisted suicide threaten the lives of people like Janka. The inspiring story of hope that allowed Janka to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds shows the lie at the heart of assisted suicide. Although anti-Life activists claim terminally-ill or mentally suffering patients gain “freedom” by killing themselves, the reality is that the decision often comes from feeling they have no freedom. Studies show that the physical ailments are not why vulnerable patients choose assisted suicide. Instead, the mental anguish of depression, feeling like a burden to loved ones, and a loss of hope lead to the lethal decision.
Every patient facing grave suffering and uncertainty deserves the true dignity of life-affirming care. In any other state of life, a person contemplating suicide would be given compassionate assistance to heal, not to die.