Pope St John Paul II noted in an address in 2004 that “a man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man”. Human dignity, in other words, is permanent and it belongs to the dying and healthy alike. There is no justification for treating dying people as if they were not quite human or to end their lives prematurely out of a distorted sense of mercy.
Instead, accompanying the dying must take an holistic approach, respecting the totality of the human person – mind, body and soul. As the person deteriorates it is the care of the eternal soul that draws more clearly into focus, and the love of God might be revealed more deeply in friendship, compassion, reconciliation and merciful forgiveness of sins. It can be a time of spiritual healing, of returning to God and hope for salvation.
The dying should receive the Sacrament of the Sick from a priest and continuous prayer is also advisable, perhaps through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the rosary. As the Hail Mary reminds us, the two most important moments in our lives are “now and the hour of our death”.