Based on the title of this, you may be thinking to yourself “uh-oh, she’s getting on her soapbox”. Let me clarify, it’s my soapbox because I think it’s really important to talk about the dignity of the human person despite what their decisions may be.
Let me start by saying I am in the Emergency Department (ED) at a large hospital for my final clinical placement and the other week Columbus had 35+ heroin overdoses in 48 hours. I was at the gym doing a workout with my trainer tonight and I was telling her about an assignment I was working on and how narcan (the antidote for opioid overdoses) is one of the drugs I put in my 10 most given medications in the ED because in the 48 hrs I have spent in the ED I’ve seen administered a lot.
As I was talking to my trainer about this, she mentioned the story in the news the other week about the parents who overdosed with their little kid in the car and someone found them unconscious and administered narcan and brought the parents back (I tried to find the story but the list of similar stories that show up on google is sickening). Anyway, as we were talking this my trainer said that she could never be a first responder because it would be so hard to revive these people… and specifically in situations where parents are knocked out in the car from obvious overdose with a toddler in the car with them… do they really deserve to live? Though I wonder if the real question should be – do they want to live?
The thing is, it’s not my place to say. I don’t get to determine who lives and dies. And it’s not place to judge these people who overdose. It is my job to follow protocols. It is my job to treat them with dignity and worth and value. It is my job to treat them as people.
Something happened to these people who are overdosing that made them turn to drugs. Are they part of a family cycle where mom and dad were both addicted to drugs so they followed suit? Was there a crises that happened in their life, like a sudden loss of a loved one and the coping mechanism they got handed was oxycodone? Was taking a drug the first time they didn’t feel pain in weeks, months, years?
I remember the first day I woke up and my head didn’t hurt after having a migraine for 6 mos. It was the most beautiful thing in the entire world. And in the 6 mos of chronic pain there were days that I was so desperate to do anything to ease the pain. However, I had a good support system. I lived in a house full of women who made sure I had the quiet I needed and tip-toed around my misery if my pain was really bad. I had friends who would give me shoulder rubs because that would help with the pain. It was okay for me to not go to something because I didn’t feel well.
But I was extremely blessed to have such an amazing, caring, loving support system! So many people end up turning to drugs or alcohol because that’s what they are handed or what they find works. Chronic pain whether physical or emotional or spiritual is miserable, and you get to a point of desperation where you make a decision. And different things and people and situations will influence that decision… and then you get hooked. especially if what your handed is alcohol or drugs. That’s a basic of how I’ve been taught addiction kind of works..
But what I want to get at tonight is that it’s not our place to say whether someone deserves live based on their decisions, especially when it comes to something like drug overdoses.
I pray, I hope – that we may only see these people as the people they are. That we may recognize the inherent worth and value of each person
“The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that ‘then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’ Man whole and entire, is therefore willed by God” CCC362
It precisely because we are willed by God that we have worth. Despite what your past may hold, you have worth simply by your identity as a child of God, and nothing can take that away.