The following Links for Learners
resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger
in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource
is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for
other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month.
Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December
1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with
access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article
directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the
article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print
edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the
graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of
topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending
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Please see our links disclaimer located
at the end of this document.
GOAL OF LESSON
To help your students understand the political process regarding physician-assisted
suicide and develop a stronger sense of compassion toward the seriously
ill and the dying.
SETTING UP THE CLASS
To work on the understanding of the political process, you may wish
to take on with your students an ambitious project with broad, even
school-wide impact. If you can't pursue it this broadly, you can easily
scale it back to a class or grade level.
The author, John Bookser Feister, profiles real people involved in
this issue. Your classroom approach can be the same. The Church's role
as moral teacher should become clear if your student can see assisted
suicide as an issue they can participate in and relate to on a personal
PARTICIPATING IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS
Give your class a role in bringing the issue before a wider audience
than their own classroom.
Partner with other teachers and students in Religion and Social
Justice; English and Journalism; and Government.
Divide student responsibilities into four role categories:
- advocates who have strong opinions and stances on one side of the
issue or the other
- journalists writing on the objective pros and cons of the issue
- voters who will cast a ballot on a public referendum or proposition
- legislators who need to educate themselves before voting on the
issue before them.
The advocates (from Social Justice classes) will form two research
teams to gather information on each side of assisted suicide. Students
with access to the Internet will find thousands of references to physician-assisted
suicide. The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature will, of course,
also provide plenty of material.
The journalists (from English classes) can interview the advocates
and the research teams, and do some of their own corroborating research,
to write articles on the topic. Perhaps several students can even interview
local or regional advocates and report their experiences.
Legislators (students of Government classes) can identify sources for
their own education on the issue. The advocates can also find ways to
reach the legislators with their opinions.
Advocates for physician-assisted suicide will write a proposition to
be put before the voters.
Journalists will report in the school paper, or a class paper, as the
The class, grade, or as an option, the entire school, can then vote
in a mock election, based on the information presented to them.
Regardless of what scale your project takes, the students should learn
or reinforce their critical thinking skills. An increased awareness
on the part of the students that they have a serious political role
in civic and moral issues is the desired outcome.
Guide them in brainstorming a list of some of the difficult moral
issues before our society:
- teen suicide and pregnancy
- physician-assisted suicide
- violence and disrespect for life
- physical and emotional abuse
Teaching teens critical thinking and analytical skills will prepare
them for their role as voters and as Christians committed to a better
The author tells us of Father Jim, a priest friend who struggled long
and hard to regain physical independence after a serious accident. Ask
the students if they can think of anyone they know like Father Jim,
perhaps a relative, perhaps someone in the public eye (like Christopher
Reeve). Any one of these people might not be alive today if physician-assisted
suicide prevailed over compassion.
Elsewhere in the article, Joseph Stalin is quoted as saying (not so
many years ago!), I solve social problems by eliminating the people
who cause them.
A Personal Approach
To develop in your students a stronger sense of compassion, you can
focus on the writings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the famous psychiatrist
known for her work with dying patients. Of special value is Death Is
Of Vital Importance, a collection of some of her lectures.
Assign reports based on the patient stories in this book, others by
Kubler-Ross, or any book with personal experiences of the sick and dying.
Ask each student to write and present one patients story. Identify
each patient by name and list them on a flipchart or the blackboard.
After each presentation, ask the students to write a few words summarizing
their impressions of the patient and any others involved in the story.
Can you now guide the students in identifying problems characteristic
of the hopelessly ill and dying? How about the difficulties their caregivers
face? In small groups ask the teens to suggest simple, practical steps
the dying person or the caregiver can take to make what they face a
bit easier. For example, a caregiver could have someone else come in
to read to the patient every day, or play music for them.
Compare physician-assisted suicide with the seeming romanticism of
teen suicide pacts as a solution to life's disappointments, as covered
so prevalently in media and music.
The goal is a more developed sense of compassion, an appreciation for
turning obstacles into opportunities for love.
Death Is Of Vital Importance, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Station
Hill Press, Barrytown, New York, 1995. A collection of lectures given
between 1976 and 1989.
On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Macmillan Publishing,
New York, 1969. Her signature work on dying.
How It Feels to Live With a Physical Disability, Jill Krementz,
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1992. Although not directly related to
the topic, it profiles a number of disabled children and teens who live
with courage and dignity.
Time magazine, April 28, 1997, The Case for Morphine,
discussing pain management for the dying.
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference.
Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading
articles contained within the site’s archives.
The links contained within this resource guide are functional
at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links
may become ineffective.
These links are provided solely as a convenience to you
and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony
Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the
content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations
regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web
sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do
so at your own risk.