In the meantime, there are important things to remember. First, it’s important to know what physician assisted suicide (PAS) does NOT mean, so let’s start with some clarification on Catholic teaching on end-of-life medical treatment.
In their document Now and at the Hour of Our Death, our Catholic Bishops from New York State wrote:
Out of deep respect for the gift of life, we must always accept, and others must provide, ordinary medical means of preserving life. Ordinary means are those that offer us a reasonable hope of benefit and would not entail excessive burden on us, our family or the community. Ordinary means of medical treatment are morally obligatory. Withholding ordinary care with the intention of causing death is considered passive euthanasia and is always gravely contrary to God’s will.
But Catholics are not morally bound to prolong the dying process by using every medical treatment available. Allowing natural death to occur is not the same as killing. Some treatments may be considered “extraordinary” (as opposed to ordinary) and are not morally obligatory because the burdens and consequences are out of proportion to the beneficial results anticipated for a particular patient. These are considered morally optional treatments. (page 3, see full text at www.nyscatholicconference.org)
PAS is not the same as allowing natural death to occur. Choosing not to undergo another round of chemotherapy at the end stage of cancer is not PAS. Administering narcotic pain medicine to a dying person with the intention of reducing her pain is not PAS. PAS means a physician facilitating a person’s death by providing the means and/or the information to enable that person to end her life.
PAS legislation is morally objectionable in many ways, a few of which are:
• it endangers vulnerable elderly and disabled patients who may be coerced into taking their own lives;
• it provides no counseling for patients with clinical depression whose mental illness may be driving them to this action;
• it flies in the face of society’s suicide prevention efforts.
Please start to learn about and pray about this issue so you can be an effective advocate for life.
As Christians, we are called to reach out in love and compassion to those experiencing illness and suffering, not to abandon them during their time of need, and to offer our support, mercy and assistance. Those experiencing suffering at the end of life should have full access to palliative care, which eases physical pain while honoring the value and dignity of the patient. During our upcoming Public Policy Weekend, February 8 & 9, please plan to sign the Diocese-wide petition to our state elected officials, urging them to oppose physician assisted suicide and support the expansion of palliative care in New York. If you would prefer to sign the petition online, please go to www.dor.org/petition.