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Life Issues Forum: Going To Battle Against Assisted Suicide

By Greg Schleppenbach

The campaign to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide wisely has been rejected by most policymakers in our society. Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent. They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.

But assisted suicide proponents like the deceptively-named group "Compassion & Choices" have renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on many fronts.

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted-suicide campaign has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia. Montana's highest court, while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could be allowed under certain circumstances.

Assisted suicide advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year. Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

The U.S. Congress was drawn into the debate when the Washington, D.C., City Council passed a law legalizing assisted suicide in 2016. Our Constitution gives Congress ultimate control over D.C. laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for patients and their families.

Another battleground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont and California helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of neutrality.

One way to counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak out against the practice with their medical associations, their state legislature and with Congress. If the answer is "support," try to change their minds — and if they won't, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why you left.

Euphemistic terms like "aid in dying," "compassion" and "choice" cloak the reality that assisted suicide is a deadly act: doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.

Evidence shows that legalizing assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of-life care, put pressure on patients and their families and open them up to abuses from insurance companies, among many other dangers. Your help is needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets, videos and other resources available at usccb.org/toliveeachday, patientsrightscouncil.org. and patientsrightsaction.org.

Greg Schleppenbach is associate director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit usccb.org/toliveeachday.

 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

The 'grave evil' of assisted suicide

By Caitlin Thomas
 
In the Church's efforts to teach about the grave evil of assisted suicide and the threats it poses, we must use clear and vigorous language. And it is always, always important that we do so with love.
 
Assisted suicide is suicide. In the few states where it is legal, physicians willing to do so prescribe lethal drugs at the request of patients seeking the drugs to end their own lives. Proponents of assisted suicide use terms like "death with dignity" and "aid in dying." But these are misleading. They are the sickly-sweet phrases of a poisonous ideology that attacks our full dignity and worth as human beings.
 
These phrases go beyond word games and become flat-out contradictions carefully etched into law. In fact, every state law (and proposed bill) legalizing assisted suicide in this country follows Oregon's law, proclaiming, "the actions taken in accordance with [the law] shall not, for any purposes, constitute suicide [or] assisted suicide." So, according to the law itself, assisted suicide isn't assisted suicide? The only sensible response to this legal blustering must be something like this sentiment from a wise character in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce: "Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on having jaundice."
 
We should not be seduced by slippery language into ignoring hard truths. The dying process can be painful, messy, full of uncertainty and difficult questions—just like life. But there is death with authentic dignity: dying at peace with God and our loved ones. Dying or terminally ill persons deserve the best care we have to offer, including appropriate treatment of symptoms and pain relief. There is a way to face this process with peace, not by hastening death, but by experiencing the support and loving care that our society should offer to those preparing for death. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, hurts the individual and the entire human family, sending a message that some lives are "completed" or not as valuable as others. We should kill the pain, not the patient.
 
Truth always walks hand-in-hand with love. It is not enough to say, "suicide is bad." We must also say, "life is good"—especially when life is old, fragile, differently abled, so young and so small our eyes cannot see it, or of a different skin color or place of origin.
 
We should learn how to best love those who are close to death. We should pray for holy deaths for them and for ourselves, recognizing that Jesus brings us to new life with Him through His death and resurrection. We should pray for the grace to build a true culture of life. And we should affirm the goodness of life in all that we do and say.
 
Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit www.usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 
 
  • Published in World

Against assisted suicide

By Greg Schleppenbach
 
The campaign to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide has been wisely rejected by most policymakers in our society.
 
Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent. They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.
 
But assisted suicide proponents like the deceptively named group “Compassion & Choices” have renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on many fronts.
 
In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted suicide campaign has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia.
 
Montana’s highest court, while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could be allowed under certain circumstances.
 
Assisted suicide advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year. Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
 
The U.S. Congress was drawn into the debate when Washington, D.C.’s City Council passed a law legalizing assisted suicide in November 2016. Our Constitution gives Congress ultimate control over District laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for patients and their families.
 
Another battleground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont and California helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of neutrality.
 
One way to counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak out against the practice with their medical associations, their state legislature and with Congress. If the answer is “support,” try to change their minds—and if they won’t, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why you left.
 
Euphemistic terms like “aid in dying” “compassion and choice” cloak the reality that assisted suicide is a deadly act: Doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.
 
Evidence shows that legalizing assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of- life care, put pressure on patients and their families and open them up to abuses from insurance companies, among many other dangers. Your help is needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets, videos and other resources available at usccb.org/toliveeachdaypatientsrightscouncil.org and patientsrightsaction.org.  
 
Greg Schleppenbach is associate director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops’ 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 
  • Published in Nation
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