The Funny Lady Is Dead Serious

  Remember Phyllis Diller, the self-deprecating comedienne with the crazy hair and zany wardrobe? Seems like she's been around forever, and she still is around. She was on "Larry King Live" last week, looking better and younger than ever. She doesn't have those startling features to make jokes about anymore, thanks to the multiple plastic-surgeries she told us all about. But Phyllis wasn't on the King show to be funny: She was one of several guests on the program that evening, the others being medical experts. The subject was depression. It seems that Ms. Diller, though looking anything but glum, dressed in bright red and making clever quips, was recently in the grip of a deadly depression. It's hard to picture the lively funny lady as very ill, but Phyllis has had many health problems and was hospitalized. She had a severe reaction to a drug and was paralyzed. Finally, she wanted out. She asked her doctors to give her a drug so she could "just float away." They refused, citing the law. "Dr. Kervorkian was in jail," she added. So, thankfully, the good "Dr. Death" did not make a call to her hospital room. "Why did you want to die?" they asked her on the King Show. "Did aging have anything to do with it?" "No," she said. It was being paralyzed. Helpless. She could see no way out. So what happened? Her body healed, the paralysis left, and now she is in good health again. Larry King asked if she was glad her physicians didn't do as she had asked. Phyllis grinned and assured him: "You better believe I am!" But the question that begs to be answered is this: What if she had lived in a European country, such as the Netherlands, that had a "Right to Die" law, or in a state like Oregon, which has legalized assisted suicide? She made a good case for her own death. She was elderly, paralyzed, in her right mind, and requested assistance in dying. Doctors there probably would have obliged. Dr. Kervorkian, too, if he weren't under lock and key. All in the name of compassion and relieving suffering. The only trouble is, it was the depression talking. Relieve the depression and change the circumstances, and the person with the death wish may change his mind. But "mercy killing," as it's called, is a very final solution. It allows no time for a changed mind. People who want to die, like Phyllis Diller, see no way out. They are suffering and want to end it. But God allows suffering, pain, and dying in this world for many purposes. Some people take this time to reflect on their lives, to make amends, and to heal family rifts. Friends and family may have a meaningful experience with the suffering person, maybe for the first time. And people who would never have done so before often seek and find God in a crisis. If someone cannot bear the pain, doctors should relieve it. If they cannot cope with their situation, then others should help. But no one has the right to "play God" and end a life. At the show's end, Larry King said to Phyllis, "We're glad you're still here." She was glad, too. And so are we all.  


Chuck Colson



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