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Disabled Vietnam veteran speaks out on euthanasia, life issues

GOOSE CREEK—The Respect Life Committee of Immaculate Conception Church hosted a talk by retired Marine Sgt. John Wayne Cockfield Feb. 23 on “The Growing Threat of Euthanasia.” Cockfield spoke on the topic that has been his passion for nearly a decade.

Cockfield is a director on the board of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and serves with the Nightingale Alliance, a national organization in the forefront of the anti-euthanasia movement.

In 1981, Cockfield became an active member of the NRLC. During that time, abortion was the center of debate.

Cockfield recalled that during the Vietnam War, servicemen were being called baby killers, “yet it was okay to kill as long as the mother was doing the killing, thanks to Roe v. Wade.”

It was the pro-life advocates who first realized that when “we start killing babies it is only a matter of time until we start killing grandma,” Cockfield said. “It is a slippery slope, and we as a nation have begun killing those who are considered devalued because of age or disability.”

Cockfield noted that there is record of killing that is taking place in all 50 United States. People are thirsting and starving to death thanks to court rulings that food and water are considered medical treatment.

“As pro-lifers we certainly don’t consider food and water as medical treatment because it is necessary for all life. No one can live without it,” he said. “This type of mentality is dangerous for all of the disabled.”

Cockfield, who was wounded in Vietnam and is confined to a wheelchair, said that as a young boy he saw a severely disabled man.

“I said to myself, ‘I would rather be dead than to be like him,’ ” he said. “Now that I am disabled I realize that it is a whole different world. I realize that my self-worth, value, and happiness [are] not based on my physical abilities or appearance.”

“People’s fears of illness and disability are coloring their view. This is how things have always been. The problem comes when prejudices and fears are being codified into law,” he said. “If a person, such as a judge or doctor, has the power to deny me life-saving medical treatment, then I am in trouble.”

Quality of life is a subjective thing yet judges are making it objective, said Cockfield.

“In America quality of life could include a three-bedroom house and a two-car garage, but in a place like Haiti it could be as simple as having supper that night,” he said. “It is not a medical decision. Unfortunately doctors now have quality of life as an excuse to kill someone.”

Cockfield expressed his concern by pointing out that a person can be arrested for withholding food and water from a dog, yet food and water can be withheld from people based on what doctors deem an inadequate quality of life.

The goal of the evening’s talk, according to Cockfield, was to help people understand that euthanasia is not for the dying, but for the living who are considered devalued because of physical or mental disability.

“According to the Veterans Affairs Hospital, a person considered terminal is one with a debilitating condition where death is imminent, a chronic condition where there is not reasonable hope for recovery,” he said. “According to VA, I am terminal. I have been living in this condition since 1969. Every person’s intrinsic value of life comes from God.”

He said that people can protect themselves and their families by refusing to sign the South Carolina Living Will. The Living Will is a binding legal document that makes your wishes known in the event of incapacitating illness.

“The Living Will has a box that says that you don’t want artificial nutrition or hydration,” he said. “But now that food and water are considered medical treatment, you are basically ordering the doctor to starve and thirst you to death.”

“When you put a price on life the price just goes down,” he said. “If we don’t win this fight, this country is going to be just a nightmare.”

Cockfield said that there are three things that each person can do to help fight the war on euthanasia.

“Prayer is the ultimate power. We must each make this part of our daily intentions and rosary prayers,” he said. “The most important secular thing to do is to always vote pro-life. If a candidate believes it is okay to kill babies, he or she should automatically be considered unfit to hold public office. The last thing is to write the Citizens for Life and request a pro-life alternative to the Living Will.”

For more information on euthanasia or to request information on the Living Will, contact the South Carolina Citizens for Life in Columbia by calling (803) 252-5433 (LIFE) or

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