Here in Washington D.C., the City Council has before it a bill modeled after Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law. Listed as the “Death with Dignity Act of 2015,” a public hearing will take place this Friday, July 10th at 11:00 AM in the District building.
Experience thus far with legalized assisted suicide should alarm anyone who looks seriously into how it has played out. The “safeguards” of the Oregon law, so highly praised by its supporters, seem to be mere window dressings than actual safeguards. In Oregon, people are getting lethal drugs who live much longer than six months, and with the only data coming from the doctors who prescribe the lethal dose and no governing body charged with investigative oversight, the information coming from Oregon is suspect at best. The 2014 Oregon Assisted Suicide Report indicates a dramatic 44% increase in assisted suicide. It also indicates that only three of the dead had received a psychiatric evaluation.
Thankfully, a rather significant coalition of disabilities advocates, medical professionals, pro-life organizations and faith communities opposes this so-called “right-to-die” legislation. The American Medical Association (AMA) also opposes it, stating, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
Why should we as Catholics oppose assisted suicide legislation? There are many reasons. Some of them are informed by our faith, others are more rooted in natural law or reason, while others flow from the consequences that will ultimately result from legalizing this form of suicide.
Let’s consider first what the Catechism teaches about assisted suicide, or euthanasia:
Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia [or assisted suicide] consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted (CCC 2277-2279).
Thus the Catechism defines euthanasia as the intentional killing of a patient, usually by direct means such as injection with deadly drugs, and sometimes indirectly by refusing to provide food and/or water. Assisted suicide includes similar means (lethal prescription, etc.) and shares the same end as euthanasia (an act intending to cause death to eliminate suffering); the distinction lies in who initiates the act – self or other. This distinction can often become blurred when one looks at the rising incidences of elder abuse, coercion and isolation experienced by many of our seniors, whether dealing with illness or not.
One cannot emphasize enough that allowing a person to die by refusing or withdrawing burdensome treatments, or by not providing machines such as ventilators that are unlikely to be therapeutic, does not qualify as assisted suicide. Church teaching does not require that one pursue every treatment possible. The patient must discern carefully with information supplied by his medical team along with an assessment of his personal resources – spiritual, psychological, emotional, familial and financial – whether or not a particular treatment is excessively burdensome. However, even for an imminently dying person, basic care (which usually includes nutrition and hydration, even if administered through a tube) must be provided.
Pain management for those with terminal illnesses, degenerative diseases, and the dying is allowed and encouraged, even if the pain medicine has the unintended side effect of shortening life. Arguments that dying is too painful and therefore a patient should be euthanized are not valid, since it is very rare today that pain cannot be managed reasonably through the advancements of the growing specialty of palliative care.
Let’s consider some other reasons, both religious and natural, that we should oppose assisted suicide. I’ll begin with the natural reasons that should concern us all, including those of different or no faith tradition. Then I’ll move to the religious reasons that should influence us who believe.
- Legalized assisted suicide grants, by government decree, certain citizens, i.e. medical professionals, death-dealing authority; this in turn results in irreparable damage to the doctor-patient relationship. Introducing death as a medical treatment option that can be offered by health care professionals transforms a trusted profession that has been solely dedicated to healing for millennia. It is because of this dedication to healing that doctors have enjoyed such respect and trust from their patients and society as a whole. The idea that government can give death-dealing power to certain individuals means that they can also enforce and regulate it. With an already broken healthcare system plagued with a spending problem, it is not difficult to imagine that assisted suicide will be an easy “fix” to our spending problem and legitimate treatment options will be refused.
In an attempt to limit who “qualifies” for assisted suicide, the legislation states that an individual must have been given a prognosis of 6 months or less left to live. All doctors who deal with terminal illnesses on a regular basis will tell you that these prognoses are an educated “guess” at best. Upon receiving such a prognosis when a patient is justifiably vulnerable and disoriented, it is dangerous and irresponsible to allow patients to make lethal decisions based upon “a guess.”
- Legalized assisted suicide will likely lead to poorer healthcare and increased pressure on the sick, the elderly, the disabled or those who have suffered traumatic injury. Those who advocate for the physically and mentally disabled have good reason to fear that pressure will be applied to euthanize the disabled and those who have been in traumatic accidents. As the concept of “a life not worth living” grows, and the idea gains traction that disability (even milder forms) is a fate worse than death, those who struggle with disability may well be easy targets for those who advise suicide. Others may feel pressured to no longer be a “burden.” Many will have the sense of their dignity being lessened. More can be read here:Disability and Euthanasia – History and Concerns.Granting individuals the right to end their life ultimately threatens us all because it implicitly denies the dignity of the dying. Failing to understand this dignity will lead to poorer care and will increase pressure on the elderly and dying to end their lives prematurely so that they are no longer a burden.
- In other words, the “right to die” too easily becomes the “duty to die.” And what begins sociologically through pressure not to be a burden, soon enough becomes economically necessary since insurance benefits may vanish. Neither can eventual legal pressure be excluded. The experience with euthanasia in the Netherlands is sobering. More can be read on that here: Euthanasia Law in the Netherlands.
There are many more reasons to oppose assisted suicide purely on rational grounds. You can find more of these here: www.noDCSuicide.org. I would like to move on to those reasons that originate from our faith in Jesus Christ.
One of my privileges as a priest is to have accompanied many people on their final journey toward death. I’ve also accompanied their family members. And in making these journeys, I have discovered that some of God’s greatest and most necessary work takes place in and during the process of natural death.
Natural death is an important part of life that should be respected and accepted, not rejected. Some very important things happen for us on our death bed that assist us spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally. And these things happen not only to us, but to our loved ones as well.
I have seen pride melt away; I have seen powerful contrition for past sins emerge. I have seen gratitude intensify, both in the one who is dying and in the love ones who surround him or her. I have heard beautiful words like, “I love you,” “I am proud of you,” “I will miss you.” I have seen people let go and let God take over. I have seen forgiveness, tenderness, appreciation, and love being shared as never before. There is also the beautiful gift of listening and waiting, along with lessons learned that will never be forgotten.
I do not say that there is not grief and emotional pain; there is. But that is not all there is; there is beauty and love, too. And these are important and necessary. Perhaps some of the most necessary and profound things take place on our deathbed and at the deathbed of others.
Supporters of the legalization of assisted suicide might argue that these beautifully human and transformative moments also occur when one takes death into his own hands. I have no doubt that many tearful goodbye’s are shared and some reconciliation among family members occurs as well; but there is a very different quality and transparent authenticity within these moments when one has surrendered his/her life and control over to God.
The dying process helps us to receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, and God says this is necessary for us. As God directs Samuel: Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature … For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Yes, even in the painful sight of once-strong individuals reduced to weakness, there is a kind of strange beauty and we must ask the Lord to give us the “eyes to see” (cf. Mt 13:16). In the nursing homes of this land are people who once ran businesses, raised families, and led communities. Now many have returned to a kind of childhood, even infancy. Some cannot walk, some have to be fed, some can no longer talk, some clutch dolls, and some must wear diapers. All this seems so horrible to many, but important things are happening. These are not conditions that any one of us would willingly choose or wish upon another; however not one of these losses, even the significant loss of intellectual capacity in such diseases as Alzheimer’s, diminishes my worth and dignity. I do not want to minimize the pain that accompanies these losses – and the pain is not limited to the patient alone. Often family members and caregivers undergo significant stress and experience the pain of our Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross.
Again, something important is happening here.
Are those in nursing homes really so different from you and me? Maybe death and dying are the “place” where all worldly status, all privilege, all inequalities are leveled and we simply become who we are. Are we not all little children to God? Does He not have to provide for every one of us in our need? Does He not have to feed us, clothe us, and enable us to speak? Perhaps it is just that with the elderly and dying the illusion of self-sufficiency has been shed. The Lord says, Unless you change and become like little children you will not inherit the kingdom of God (Mat 18:3).
- As Catholics, we can never affirm the claim of the world that “My body is my own and I can do with it as I please.“For a believer, this is simply not true. Scripture says,You are not your own. For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:19). We are the steward, not the owner, of our body; we belong to God. Rather, as disciples, we seek to imitate Christ as He surrendered to His own impending death and gave us His Body at the Last Supper: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Lk 22:19).
As Christians, we must once again reaffirm our acceptance of the Cross. No one likes the Cross – it is a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:22), but we have been taught by Christ that the Cross is both necessary and saving. And we must insist, at least among our own number, upon the belief expressed by St. Paul: So we do not lose heart. Though our body is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18).
Think carefully before you support assisted suicide through some sort of limited notion of compassion. The truest compassion is to want for someone what he truly needs in order to be saved. Only God can ultimately say what this is. We do not have dignity because we can control our own lives; we have dignity because our life is in God’s hands.
States across the country have been rejecting efforts to legalize assisted suicide. Please take a moment to join the groundswell of opposition to this bill.
30 Replies to “Join the Movement – Help Us Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide”
God bless you for fighting assisted suicide/euthanasia.
I will be glad to sign a petition, call and write our Congressional reps for this worthy cause. Too bad liberals will not. And please give us a chance to petition the Pope to stop issuing absurd socialist leftist comments on climate, and other liberal shiboleths. It seems as if it is Obama light. Enough.
Amen, how much more can we take.
Not much more, As Msgr Pope once said the cup of evil is over flowing………… We need divine help!
Help us Lord! Ne irascaris Domine!
Hasty generalization against liberals or anyone else is a sin, and rashly judging the Pope is a sin as well. Do not condemn others so quickly in your over-righteousness, but be merciful and just like God.
I agree with the Pastor and I won’t be going to confession. People have their viewpoints from what others say and do, I don’t like a lot of what I’m hearing coming from inside the Church and I am greatly relieved when I hear another voice speak up and counter what I perceive as dangerous. Your perception might be different but its not infallible that’s where rashness comes in, to perceive sin where its not because of a false reading of another’s heart and mind. You can have your viewpoint, ‘ don’t generalize liberals, don’t associate the Pope with Obama or liberals’ but to tell the world anybody who dares crosses that line is sinful is a bit over the top.
Sorry Nick, but your ideology on mercy is odd. Firstly, I’m not God and cannot fathom God but secondly Jesus and the various Saints and Prophets never, ever, ever adopted the attitude that you seem to have towards speaking the truth! Truth is an undeniable fact, In denying truth to suit the flavour of the day we become goats and it’s the goats that shall be separated from the sheep. If you think that you can get through this life by being nice, good luck to you but everyone knows that being nice all of the time is fake….
I’m glad you’ll sign the Petition. I have to say I am not sure that Euthanasia breaks out in a pure left – right way. The Pope’s latest encyclical deserves a little more attention than you have given it. It is about more than climate and seeks to integrate human ecology with wider environmental matters. The are bound to be aspect you don’t like in the letter, but you might be surprised how the pope also calls liberals to be more consistent and to care as much about the human person, and their own bodies as much as they care about ice and other natural things.
This Pope is exhausting. In nearly every public pronouncement there’s ambiguity or seemingly discordant statements or politics. It’s a regular daily effort to sift out the good bits in his statements or to minimize or excuse or unconvincingly explain away yet another questionable statement. It’s more like reading Al Gore or some other political figure than the Holy Father. I want to believe he best and give the befit of the doubt but when one doubt becomes twenty I loose confidence.
Be careful David, Our current Pope has not done anything yet that warrants this type of response. Currently we live in a time of confusion and to be honest satan wants the strong catholic’s to give up because of what they are reading about what our Pope supposedly has said (propaganda). Obviously my attitude would change if something stupid happened at the forth coming synod but to date Pope Francis our POPE.
I am just being honest and I don’t care for your condescension.
I don’t think Christopher is being condescending. He is, in effect asking you a question, adult to adult – how do you answer? Do the Pope’s statements really warrant your response?
Pope Francis is pushing a left wing political agenda. My preference is to not mix politics with religion, whether from the pulpit or from the Vatican. Consequently, when the pope is not speaking on faith and mortals, I will tune him out.
You are entitled to do so. However do not reject all docility (teachableness). Lets presume you are a conservative republican (no crime there!) But! Have you really squared all your thoughts, views and opinions with Catholic teaching? Are you a conservative first or a Catholic. Catholics don’t fit in to little boxes designed by the world.
What am I missing that David can’t have this viewpoint from what he has heard and seen, which statements should be thrown out and why?
I understand. I wish he were more careful. But honestly, you want to know why I get most angry with Pope Francis? He reminds me of me! I am outspoken, opinionated and say things here that inject tension. Of course I am not pope, just Charles Pope and I can get away with it. People can call me a fool and there is no necessary tension for them in being Catholic. Not so easy with the Pope! THus, I like you would prefer if he’d simmer down and be more careful. EVERYONE is listening to him and not all can sort out or simply dismiss his off the cuff observations from true policy and teaching.
Honestly I thought I was was being careful by not being too specific and talking about my discouragement, but fine I can be more precise. Here are a few examples: the rabbit comment to a mother of 6, the welcoming of Castro, the positive comments about Communism, the acceptance of the hammer and sickle crucifix yesterday, the uncritical acceptance of global warming and the proposal of more UN power as a solution, the castigation of clergy at Christmas, the way the Synod was run, the selection of Kasper and Marx to positions of prominence, the demotion of Pell, the suppression of the FFI, the lack of consequences for American nuns who support Obamacare after Sartains review. Most worrying of all is the approval of the secular world/pop culture (the cover of the Advocate for example). To be fair there are other players here but typically people make excuses for the man in charge because they don’t want to think ill of him. I understand that but I believe Francis is clearly in charge, especially of what he says. If Francis were not the Pope I would have stopped listening altogether some time ago; it’s only by virtue of the office that he holds that I listen at all. I am just being honest, perhaps you prefer I politely pretend there are no real problems. In fact I would find this all very discouraging, heartbreaking really , except my prayer life has gotten better because of it and there is great consolation in the Lord. We live in a time of poor leadership on the political level and it’s disappointing to see it in the Church. Last if we can not talk honestly within the Church then we have no real communion with each other. I would be overjoyed to be wrong here, but I just don’t see it.
Despite my obvious failures, I am actively working on my deepening my faith as best as I know how. I do self examine and question my beliefs whenever they are not fully aligned with Catholic teaching. I do take the Church quite seriously and I intend to adhere to her as salvation is through her. Further it’s not hard to find good points in the latest encyclical but it’s dishonest to pretend everything is alright as well. I want to be taught by the Church. Rather I need to be instructed. I need to be lead; I will not be able to finish alone because I am too weak. However I find it exceedingly hard to be lead by someone I do not respect and I’m heartbroken about it. Enough; this is already over long.
I agree with you but at the same time we have two or three choices consisting of: We can vent our frustrations over the net, we can pray for those that seem to be causing confusion and / or we can write to those people personally to share our frustration.
Father Z has said a few times on his blog that GOD will not be mocked! So in reality if someone is mocking God, God will sort it out!!!
Also, Msgr Pope has stated the the cup of evil is over flowing these are the realities of the world today.
Jesus said that his church would not fail even against the gates of hell but today there is a aroma or perfume in the air that creates discouragement and confusion.
The tools of satan are disouragement confusion and relevatism and satan wants you and me and everyone else to get so fed up that we give up.
We need divine intervention more than ever!
Saint Paul said keep your eyes on the prize.
In Jesus Christ our only SAVIOUR.
Praying for our Pope, Priests, Cardinals, Bishops, trainee Priests, Fathers, Mothers, Children, Catechists that we fight the good fight.
We have some good Cardinals that won’t compromise the truth, they will not go down a false pass, there will always be a light. Francis lost me along time ago but
I will never leave the Church, I will endure with the Princes who will be faithful to 2000 years of
teaching and the Lord’s mandates.
This year we will enter the year of MERCY! We also have the synod, Thankfully to God we have very strong Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and pew sitters that will fight the good fight.
Will God abandon us?
Will the Church become a kumbaya, guitar strumming, drum bashing nonsense or will all of this stuff stop?
Jesus will retain his promise that even the gates of hell will not prevail against his church.
God will not be mocked!
I am not sure that Euthanasia breaks out in a pure left – right way
It does not. There are plenty of utilitarians on the libertarian “right,” just as there are on the liberal “left.”
We just dealt with this in regards to a family friend who my mother is power of attorney. Because he was sick in the hospital, in his 80’s
and not sound of mind to their standings, the quality of life crap they kept pouring down our throats to be merciful and just let him die. We
said no, the Lord will take him when he wants to, put in a feeding tube, get him on oxygen, give him a chance. John, our friend, they said
is no longer there, we are the most cruel of people, even a dog shouldn’t be treated so. These people all have the same tune, quality of life, I would say to them who are you to judge his quality of life, this might be his best days in preparing himself for the Lord and we will not deny him this time. John lingered for for about 3 months and we never looked backed and regretted that we gave John this time, we believe his suffering went to great use for himself and others and John will thank us someday. We kept saying the Lord will take him when he wanted John and he died on Easter, legally a few minutes past Easter because we had John on full code and they had to work on him to try to bring him back, no bringing back when its his time.
Church Documents on suicide.
Declaration on Euthanasia: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19800505_euthanasia_en.html
Evangelium Vitae: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html
On legalizing euthanasia for children: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pont-acd_life_doc_20040903_euthanasia-netherlands_en.html
Catechism Index, S for Suicide: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/index/s.htm#Suicide
Suicide is forbidden, either absolutely or conditionally, by other religions too:
– Judaism via Leviticus 19:14
– Islam via Sura 4, ayat 29
– Hinduism via ahimsa
– Jainism via moksha
– Buddhism via vinaya
– Some Wiccans believe suicide violates the Wiccan Rede
Videos for helpers of people suffering with suicide.
ON SUICIDE AND DEATH
Social causes of suicide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5zxLnLtFeo
Preparing for death: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oPTnwWkTgY
ON EVIL AND LOVE
Philosophy of sin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMyTqt-op_4
Human rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu_7XuA4Bk0
Children’s human rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwmF7ozRDGQ
Even the most evil people have their rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-lO1_QngSI
Human health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvcChRoEHB0
ON MERCY AND HUMILITY
Via Crucis, Via Caritas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTpQz68hT6U
Christian hope for suffering souls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WKZhIh6Tfk
Our Lord’s Mercy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Z3jcUe1no
Our Lord’s Humility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i53bTWSvoMQ
Our Lord’s Virtues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_zIpl73CbI
Theological Virtue of Charity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZTS7xGMAJ0
Friendship of God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZTS7xGMAJ0
Book of Love and Truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i53bTWSvoMQ
Holy Helpers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i53bTWSvoMQ
Patrons of Chastity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i53bTWSvoMQ
In case anyone is interested in how dire the situation is in France please read this propaganda article:
An please pray for Vincent and everyone that will suffer the same fate as Terri Schiavo.
The movement for death and redefinition of GOD’s natural law is moving at a rapid pace, we need a miracle!
No miracle is required, save the Eucharist – the Miracle of Miracles, from which all miracles come and to which all miracle are oriented. God provides us His Sacramental Sacrifice every day, so hope in Divine Providence. He has already conquered evil on the Cross, assuming all our evils and miseries in Himself as God, Priest and Victim and overcoming them by His Obedience and Suffering, Resurrection and Ascension. He will come again to definitively manifest His Triumph. So don’t worry, just pray and do penance like Christ.
Good news from California, a win against suicide: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/catholic-church-win-liberal-california-legislature-32320896
Love is the commitment to the complete integrity of being. Love is committed to all aspects of being, both mind and body, spirit and flesh, the entire soul. It includes a commitment to the being of others as well as self and also to the being of the environment in which other beings reside.
I wonder how much of the motivation, for desiring assisted suicde, is based on monetary accounting. Some may disagree because of a popular belief that medical professionals want an enhanced flow of the money out of the medical funds and into the medical worker.
However, if it is true that, there’s a desire to have more work just to make more money, this would be applicable in cases where the higher ranking professionals make the money. As a person approaches death the money goes progressively toward life support that runs partly automaticall and the workers involved aren’t the ones with the high quantity of degrees hanging on the wall.
Could it ne more like; sweep that one out the refuse exit because it (“that one”) is costing money that doesn’t go in the pocket of the influential ones?
Personally Peter, I think that it’s more about harvesting organs and how much money someone’s heart, lungs and kidneys are worth.
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